Rally Without a Cause

As the sun shines on Capitol Hill this week, motorcycles are rolling in to to participate in the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) “E15 Fuel for Thought Lobby Day” sponsored by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Associations (AFPM). While ethanol industry representatives has shown frustration, Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) couldn’t help but chuckle.

“This is a rally without a cause. E15 is not mandated for any vehicle and EPA has RFA-logo-13specifically prohibited its use in motorcycles and other small engines. E15 is a choice some consumers with 2001 and newer automobiles may and should be allowed to make to reduce gasoline costs or promote a cleaner environment. EPA has assured that E10 will still be available at all gas stations offering E15. E10 is fully approved by all motorcycle manufacturers today. Indeed, ethanol provides the high octane many motorcycles require. Where is the problem? Why do bikers want to eliminate consumer choice for automobile drivers fed up with skyrocketing gasoline prices?”

Dinneen continued, “I guess we should be flattered that AMA would dedicate Members of Congress’ and riders’ precious time to a fuel option they cannot use and is only available in a handful of gas stations nationwide. Hard to believe that E15 is a bigger concern than road safety and driver awareness of motorcycles. After all, the ethanol industry and the Environmental Protection Agency have worked diligently to address concerns previously raised by the AMA.

Growth_Energy_logo-1CEO of Growth Energy Tom Buis questioned the fact of the exercise. “The fact of the matter is that the EPA and stakeholders have taken the necessary steps to ensure proper labeling to prevent any possible misfueling. Today’s demonstration might as well be the AMA protesting the sale of diesel at gas stations.” Continue reading

Motorcycles & E15

The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) is hosting an event for motorcycle riders to come to Washington, D.C. and lobby on Capitol Hill. They want to stop E15 from being sold until testing has been done on motorcycles to see if harm or damage will occur.

sturgis Photo RussBrown.comIn response, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) held a press call to discuss motorcycles and E15. On the call were Robert White director of market development for RFA and Harley Davidson owner, as well as engine experts Bobby Likis and Bryan O’Neill.

All the participants stressed during the call that since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved E15, it has never been approved for motorcycles – only E10 has been approved for motorcycles. The message back to AMA and all motorcycle riders, said White, “…is to not use the fuel. In fact, it would be illegal, and will remain illegal no matter what any testing would confirm.”

The big question – Why E15? “I think we need to look not further then the event sponsor, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, known as our nation’s oil refiners,” said White. He also noted that the RFA has taken concerns of AMA and others seriously when it comes to E15.

In addition to the call, RFA also released a fact sheet specifically for motorcycle owners answering common questions about E15 (85 percent gasoline/15 percent ethanol) and motorcycle engines. The document entitled “E15 and the Motorcycle Industry” makes it clear that E15 is illegal to put into a motorcycle engine, but E10 is approved for use.

Listen to the full press call here: Motorcycles & E15

Needed Now: Farm Bill with Energy Funding

For two years the Senate has passed its version of a farm bill. Last year the House did not and later this week is set to debate its version of the bill. During this process, the current farm bill was extended but ag, energy and other groups are at a full court press to get a bill passed before the legislators break for summer vacation.

I sat down with Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy recently who is a Washington insider and FEW13-growthenergy-buishas been working on behalf of the agricultural industry and now the biofuels industry for many years to learn more about the current farm bill, or lack thereof.

Buis explained that the 2008 Farm Bill was the first ever with an energy title, all designed to help investment into next generation biofuels. This year, the Senate extended the program and funded it and those are two critical programs said Buis. If a new bill isn’t passed, the extension will expire on September 30, 2013 and with it all the energy programs.

He continued, what the House does is only authorize the programs but don’t put in any money in the bill. “It’s a good press release but it doesn’t mean anything. And the battle will probably end up like that if and when it gets through the House they won’t have any funding for the programs and restrictions on whether or not USDA can fund development under the REAP program, flex pumps in rural communities. They’ll probably have a prohibition which the Senate does not and will have it work in out in conference.”

Tom along with his members have been extremely active in defending ethanol on the Hill and will continue to do so. Realizing that they need more boots on the ground, several years ago Growth Energy launched its “Growth Force” where anyone from around the world can sign up to support biofuels. Now the association is taking it one more step, and individuals from around the country can become members of Growth Energy.

During our sit down, Buis also discussed several other current issues including market access and the ongoing debate over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Listen to my interview with Tom here: Needed Now: Farm Bill with Energy Funding

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

DoD Biofuels Program Weathers Senate Storm

us-capitol-fiscal-cliff-voteSomebody in Washington must be looking out for biofuels. On the heels of the full U.S. Senate passing the the Farm Bill and its provisions friendly to biofuels (including $38 million for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, about $160 million for the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance program, and possibly up to $88 million for the Rural Energy for American Program), the Senate Armed Services Committee has stopped attempts that would have curtailed the military’s biofuels program.

The move gained the praise of the Advanced Biofuels Association’s president Michael McAdams:

“The Advanced Biofuels Association applauds the Senate Armed Services Committee for their leadership in supporting the Department of Defense initiatives in advanced biofuels. The Senate continues to recognize the mission value of investments in biofuels that meet multiple national security objectives, and contribute to growing jobs in American agriculture and technology.”

Of course, both of these bills are still to pass both the full House and Senate and the inevitable joint committees to hash out the differences. Both of these might have been wins for biofuels, but the war’s not over. Stay tuned.

Renmatix, UPM Ink Biochemicals Deal

renmatix-upmProvider of sugars for biofuels Renmatix teams up with European pulp and paper giant UPM in an agreement to develop biochemicals. This Renmatix news release says the companies will use Renmatix’s water-based Plantrose™ process to convert woody biomass into low-cost sugar intermediates for subsequent downstream processing into biochemicals.

“We are very excited about this truly collaborative endeavor. It combines UPM’s core competencies in sustainable sourcing and efficient industrial processing of wood, with Renmatix’s unique conversion technology,” noted Michael Duetsch, Director of Biochemicals, at UPM. “Access to second generation, lignocellulosic, sugars through a process that uses almost no consumables is a crucial factor in Plantrose technology’s attractiveness.”

The Plantrose process employs water at very high temperatures and pressures to breakdown biomass through supercritical hydrolysis. Under such conditions water can act as both a powerful solvent and catalyst, creating rapid reactions.

“We believe this pioneering approach leads to real cost advantages over conventional methods. Our growing relationship with UPM gives Renmatix an opportunity to support them expanding the Biofore story,” commented Mike Hamilton, CEO of Renmatix. “Renmatix, as a U.S. based technology provider, takes great pride in working with global companies across the emerging bio-value chains. It reinforces the demand that exists for licensing Plantrose technology as the bridge between sustainable sources of upstream biomass, and downstream manufacturing of biochemicals and fuels.”

The deal is seen as part of the growing interest among forestry players to diversify their product portfolio and enter into the growing biochemical and biofuels markets.

Colombians Find Algae with Biodiesel Potential

colombiaflag1Researchers in Colombia have found a couple of strains of freshwater algae that could be good for biodiesel. FIS.com reports that the scientists at the National University of Colombia (UNC) believe Scenedesmus ovalternus and Chlorella vulgaris will produce biodiesel with less impact on the environment.

Luis Miguel Serrano Bermudez, Master in Chemical Engineering at the UNC and one of the authors of the study, explains that neither the bioethanol (made from the fermentation of corn or sugar cane) nor the biodiesel (made from palm oil, soybean or other grains) can respond to the global fuel demand with environmental and economic sustainability.

Colombia has a high abundance of water and light, which is essential for farming microalgae.

The two species of microalgae studied had the highest productivity of fats, with a value that is equal to 4.1 times the productivity of the African palm, which is the current raw material used by the domestic industry for biodiesel.

The researchers found that Chlorella vulgaris has a 25 percent higher fat content compared to Scenedesmus ovalternus, making the process that much cheaper.

Genscape Adds to Biofuels Info with Landviewer Buy

Genscape LogoProvider of energy information for commodity and financial markets Genscape has bought LandViewer to expand its technology footprint in the biofuels industry. Genscape says, using NASA satellite data to get daily updates of corn vegetation progress, the LandViewer platform gives corn traders and buyers land use and crop progress information on a sub-regional level so they know where to source grain and how to set the best prices.

“The LandViewer platform opens a lot of doors for Genscape customers to make informed grain management decisions ahead of market movements. When you know the supply of corn you can set better prices, hedge investment risk and stay ahead of the competition,” says Robert Barton, Managing Director of Agriculture and Biofuels at Genscape.

To complement the LandViewer acquisition and to provide additional value to ethanol customers Genscape has also launched a unique QAP specifically for the ethanol industry. The new program offers a way for ethanol plants to create QAP-B RINs desired by Obligated Parties with a minimal impact on plant operations. Using their proven technology, the company can offer a cost-effective method to directly manage RIN generation compliance while eliminating the hassle of onsite auditing.

Also designed for traders, LandViewer uses a combination of historical data, national yield regressions and fundamental crop data to deliver highly accurate projections of crop yields on a national level to inform trading and investment strategies.

The LandViewer technology was developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center.

By the way, Genscape is at this week’s Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in St. Louis, Mo., as is our own Joanna. Genscape will be talking about LandViewer and the QAP program for ethanol plants.

Check out the FEW Photo Album.

USDA: $98.6 Mil Available for Advanced Biofuels

usda-logoThe USDA is making available up to $98.6 million to support the production of advanced biofuels. This news release from the agency says it will be an opportunity for eligible producers to submit applications and strengthen the rural economy:

“The United States is on the path to a cleaner, more secure energy future,” [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack said. “By helping producers to support and expand the production of advanced biofuels, USDA is ensuring that Rural America is a key component of President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to reduce the Nation’s reliance on foreign oil.”

The payments are provided through USDA Rural Development’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, commonly referred to as the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program. It was established in the 2008 Farm Bill to support the expansion of advanced biofuel production. Payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of biofuel produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Examples of eligible feedstocks include crop residue; animal, food and yard waste; vegetable oils; and animal fat.

Producers use the payments to offset production costs and in some instances expand their operations. For example, in 2012, Sequential-Pacific Biodiesel, a biodiesel facility based in Salem, Ore., increased its annual production by approximately 1 million gallons, or about 20 percent. Sequential-Pacific primarily uses locally sourced waste vegetable oils in its production of biodiesel. The support USDA Rural Development provided through its Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels helped the company buy equipment that increased the speed of production and pre-treatment of feedstock.

If producers didn’t apply for payments during the October 2012 application window, they may now apply for these payments for third and fourth quarter fiscal year 2013 production as well as for any applicable incremental production. Applications must be in by July 11, 2013. More information is available here on the Federal Register.

Since 2009, more than 275 eligible producers in 44 states have received payments.

Ethanol Fuels Promotion in Minnesota

E85 PumpFriday, June 14, 2013, drivers of flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) can fill up for less at the Short Stop Quick Mart at 4725 Quail Road NE, Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. FFVs drivers can use any blend of ethanol from E10 to E85, 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline. The promotion will take place from 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm and there is a 25 gallon limit per vehicle.

The Short Stop Quick Mart is one of a growing number of fuel retailers in Minnesota with a flex pump that offers both E85 and mid-level blends of ethanol fuels. During the promotion, prices will be discounted by the following amounts:

  • 85¢ off per gallon E85
  • 50¢ off per gallon E50
  • 30¢ off per gallon E30
  • 20¢ off per gallon E20

Kelly Marczak, director of environmental programs for the American Lung Association in Minnesota, said flex fuel vehicle owners who use E85 instead of gasoline are helping to reduce air pollution. “Vehicle emissions are the single largest source of air pollution in Minnesota, and an FFV fueled by E85 emits less than the same vehicle fueled with gasoline. These fuels are cleaner-burning, made in Minnesota and almost always cost less than regular unleaded.”

Supporters of the promotion include Short Stop Quick Mart (Bauerly Oil), Benton/Sherburne County Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, American Lung Association in Minnesota and the Minnesota Clean Air Choice Team. To see if you drive an FFV, click here.

Global Renewable Fuels Calls Food Lobby Letter Misleading

grfa_logo1Officials with the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) say a letter criticizing biofuels sent to British Prime Minister David Cameron by a group led by two of the world’s largest multinational food companies is “biased and misleading.”

“Nestlé Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe who co-authored this misguided attack on biofuels has no credibility on this issue,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. “I find it somewhat convenient that a person who sits on the Board of ExxonMobil would criticize biofuels.”

The letter issued to Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of his hosting of the upcoming G8 meetings has failed to highlight the tremendous impact that high oil prices have had on global food prices. The letter has ignored the recent World Bank publication, Long-Term Drivers of Food Prices, which examined the relative contribution of various sector and macroeconomic drivers on food price increases from 1997–2004 to 2005–12.

The World Bank report “concludes that most of the price increases are accounted for by crude oil prices (more than 50 percent)…oil prices mattered most during the recent boom period because they experienced the largest increase.“ The report goes on to say “most of the contribution to food price changes from 1997-2004 to 2005-12 comes from the price of crude oil, which for maize and wheat is 52 percent and 64 percent, respectively.”

“There is little doubt that during the recent period of volatile food price spikes and record oil industry profits, oil prices were the most important driver of food prices,” said Baker.

Read more here.