Unite and Ignite

Unite and Ignite is the theme for this year’ 26th annual American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Conference that will take place in Des Moines, Iowa August 26-28, 2013. ACE UniteExecutive Vice President Brian Jennings says the theme of “Unite and Ignite,” points to the critical topics and timely opportunities that will be covered.

“Our upcoming conference will be helpful to those in the industry who are looking at new ways to overcome Big Oil’s stalling tactics with respect to blending our affordable and clean fuel ethanol with their gasoline,” said Jennings. “General session topics focusing on opportunities with RINS, RFS pathways to innovation, how ethanol producers can improve their carbon reduction scores and others will help provide ethanol plant managers and board members with a good game plan on how to bolster their marketplace efforts going forward.”

Breakout sessions at the event include: Overview of State and EPA Ethanol Air Enforcement Activities; Iowa vs. Brazil: Outlook for Advanced Biofuel RINs; The Impact Employees Have on Your Plant’s Success; Roles & Relationships: Building and Maintaining Constructive Relationships Among Board Members, Management and Investors; and Building Your Board: Election Management.

“I’m looking forward to discussing these topics and more with ethanol industry leaders next month. And I can’t think of a better location to do that than Des Moines,” said Jennings.

Speakers and additional agenda detail can be found at www.ethanol.org. To register to attend the upcoming ACE Conference, click here.

Oil Prices Heading Skyward

Oil prices are heading skyward again with U.S. prices soaring past $100 a barrel. The average cost of a gallon of gasoline rose 7.5 cents nationwide in less than one week and there is growing concern that gas prices will continue to rise due to escalating political turmoil in the Middle East.

Oil-Barrels photo- national consumer league“Here we go again. With domestic oil now more than $100 a barrel and supplies reaching unexpected lows, gas price increases are sure to follow,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “To put things in perspective, in May 2009, U.S. oil (WTI) was less than $40/barrel, today it is nearly 3 times that rate. Unfortunately we have experienced this all too often. Our nation’s addiction to oil continues to wreak havoc on our economy and our consumers. Unfortunately we have seen this play out over and over again for the past four decades; it always ends the same – higher prices for consumers at the pump.”

Buis notes that there is a better alternative: the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS sets goals for the production of clean renewable fuels and it is working. In fact, says Buis, it is the most successful energy policy enacted in the past 40 years. Today 10 percent of the nation’s gasoline supply contains home grown renewable ethanol.

“And we can do more; however, big oil is advocating that Congress eliminate the RFS,” said Buis. “In essence, they don’t want consumers to have alternatives to our addiction to oil – they don’t want consumers to have the choice of a cleaner, less expensive alternative.”

Buis continued, “It is time to get off the hamster wheel, a century of dependency on oil has left us vulnerable and with little choice. We can’t keep all of our eggs in one basket; we can’t stay dependent on one fuel source—we must embrace renewable fuels as an alternative to oil. It’s what American consumers want and deserve, moreover, it’s what America needs to break our dangerous addiction to foreign oil. We can’t let the oil industry continue to dictate what we pay at the pump, erecting barriers in the free market and blocking renewable fuel options,” added Buis.

Syngenta Pledges Support for Renewable Fuels

During the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen this past Saturday held at the Newton Speedway, Syngenta announced a three-year commitment to contribute $1 to the renewable fuels industry for every acre planted with Enogen trait technology. The initiative, that began with this year’s growing season, will help support America’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and promote the benefits of renewable fuels grown in America.

enogen“Renewable fuels are an essential part of the American energy equation, benefiting consumers, farmers and American energy independence,” said David Witherspoon, Head of Renewable Fuels at Syngenta. “Ethanol, whether from corn or other biomass sources, is an energy source for today and tomorrow driving economic growth and innovation.”

Syngenta is currently focused on increasing the productivity of renewable fuels made from traditional and non-traditional feedstocks such as corn. The Enogen trait technology is a biotech output trait designed specifically for ethanol production. The corn expresses alpha amylase enzyme directly in the corn kernel and replaces liquid alpha amylase enzyme. According to Syngenta, the unique enzyme present in Enogen grain facilitates a simpler, more efficient ethanol production process helping to maximize the productivity of every gallon produced, and thus the profitability of the ethanol plant.

By helping to create savings in electricity, natural gas and water usage, Enogen corn also has the potential to help an ethanol plant reduce its carbon footprint. Syngenta says that for a 100-million gallon plant, efficiency improvements by Enogen can save annually:

  • More than 68 million gallons of water
  • Nearly 10 million KWh of electricity
  • More than 350 billion BTUs of natural gas
  • More than 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions

Enogen corn represents a unique value proposition for local communities as well. Enogen corn hybrids are planted under contract with an ethanol plant licensed to use the technology. In exchange for high-quality grain and robust alpha amylase enzyme, ethanol plants pay an average 40 cent per bushel premium to local farmers for their Enogen grain, an economic boost that could mean as much as $80 to $90 an acre for some Midwestern farmers.

New FOE Study Slams Biofuels

A new study by Friends of the Earth slams biofuels and bases many of its conclusions on indirect land use change (ILUC) a hotly debated theory. The report, “Understanding the Biofuel Trade-offs between Indirect Land Use Change, Hunger and Poverty,” authored by 2013_01_malawi_09 Photo UNTimothy Searchinger, relies on ILUC theory and leaves out several underlying causes of global hunger when making an attempt to connect biofuels production and food security.

In response to the study, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) who says that Searchinger’s theory attempts to predict future land use patterns globally that might result from the increased production of biofuels, has been disproven and discredited by a significant number of scientists and academics.

“ILUC has proven to be faulty because modeling relies on hundreds of assumptions, not facts, to predict future land use patterns around the world,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA. “There is an abundance of evidence that shows ILUC to have no ability to accurately predict future land use patterns and that Searchinger was wrong.”

Bliss continued, “When attempting to draw a link between biofuels production and hunger, Mr. Searchinger conveniently ignores the fact that the world produces twice as much food as is consumed. It is well understood that food security and hunger are directly related to poverty, accessibility, and a lack of investment in agriculture to name a few of the underlying issues.”

A recent study, Global Food – Waste Not, Want Not, by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) found that half of all global food, 1 to 2 billion tons, goes to waste before reaching people’s stomachs each year. According to the IMechE study, food is wasted at every point in the supply chain, including: poor harvesting practices, storage, transportation, market waste and consumer waste. In developing countries, waste occurs mostly at the farmer-producer end of the supply chain and moves up the chain the more developed the country. In developed countries, grocery stores often reject produce because it does not meet certain appearance standards. Continue reading

EU Votes to Cap Biofuel “Food” Feedstock Use

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 12.58.19 PMThis week the European Parliament Environment Committee voted for the European Union (EU) to cap the amount of food used as biofuels at 5.5 percent. Groups opposed to the measure want to see an end to biofuels created from “food” crops. The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive requires EU member states to use 10 percent of the road transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020. Historically, the mandate has been met with feedstocks also used to produce food (corn, wheat, soy).

The first generation cap on “agri-fuels” is an attempt to help the country transition to advanced biofuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from indirect land use change (ILUC).

“I nonetheless think that the industry must be given time to adapt, and I shall propose a compromise to this end in plenary session,” said rapporteur Corinne Lepage (ALDE, FR) after the vote. Her first-reading report was approved by 43 votes to 26, with one abstention.

“While today’s vote for a 5.5 percent cap is better than no cap, it still means that people in the United Kingdom and Europe will put food in their cars that could have fed tens of millions of people. This is not acceptable at a time when 1 in 8 people go hungry globally,” said Anders Dahlbeck, Head of Policy at ActionAid UK.

EU Parliment copyThe EU is revising its biofuels policies and this week MEPs on the Environment committee voted on proposed amendments that will not have to be accepted or rejected by the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg in September. After that, the European Parliament will have to negotiate with the European Council (made up of EU governments) before a final revision to biofuels policies can be implemented. Continue reading

Ethanol Safety Seminars Head to California

Ethanol Safety Seminars, hosted by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), are heading to California this month, as part of a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) grant. All seminars are free and feature sessions from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch will be provided. The seminars are designed for individuals who respond to ethanol-related emergencies as well as those who work at fixed-facilities and transport fuel.

The goal of these seminars is for attendees to gain full ethanol emergency response eerctraining experience that they can put to use immediately in the field as well as pass along to other first response teams. A majority of this training is based on the “Complete Training Guide to Ethanol Emergency Response,” a training package created by the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition (EERC) that has been distributed throughout the United States and to several countries worldwide. Seminar dates:

  • July 8 & 9 at the California Fire & Rescue Training Authority in Sacramento, co-hosted by Central California Traction.
  • July 10 & 11 at the Elihu M. Harris State of California office building in Oakland, co-hosted by Richmond Pacific Railroad.
  • July 12 & 13 at the Modesto Junior College Fire Training Center in Modesto, co-hosted by Modesto & Empire Traction Company.
  • July 15 & 16 at the Olive Drive Fire Training Facility in Bakersfield, co-hosted by San Joaquin Valley Railroad.
  • July 17 & 18 at the Del Valle Regional Training Center in Castaic, co-hosted by Filmore & Western Railroad and Pacific Harbor Line.
  • July 19 & 20 at the UP Intermodal Container Transfer Facility in Long Beach, co-hosted by Filmore & Western Railroad and Pacific Harbor Line.
  • July 22 & 23 in the auditorium of the War Memorial Building in San Diego, co-hosted by San Diego & Imperial Valley Railroad.

Additional sponsors for the tour include Kinder Morgan and Pacific Ethanol.
Continue reading

The Right to Blend

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed into law last week legislation that preserves an Iowa petroleum marketer’s right to blend with Iowa manufactured ethanol and biodiesel. This, according to Dawn Carlson, president of the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa, helps retailers sell competitively priced fuel and preserves Iowa jobs.
“We celebrate the signing of Iowa’s “Right to Blend Law”, Carlson. “This legislation allows petroleum marketers to continue to offer locally grown biofuels to Iowans.”

Biodiesel-Pump-Photo-Joanna-Schroeder-e1364839994362This legislation was requested by the petroleum marketers, who have supported ethanol and biodiesel blending for more than 30 years in Iowa. In a special ceremony honoring the new law, Governor Branstad praised the state’s petroleum marketers for their efforts to offer competitively priced fuel and preserve Iowa jobs. The Governor and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds were thanked for their support of the law.

According to fuel pricing data, this legislation helps Iowa businesses to buy fuel more competitively. Having the ability to blend gasoline and diesel with local ethanol or biodiesel enhances competitive forces that drive prices lower at the terminals.

Carlson says with passage of the Right to Blend law, local retailers have the freedom to fully accommodate the market demands for biofuels. Oil company contracts can not prevent Iowa marketers from blending with renewable fuel produced in Iowa or dictate which blends of biofuels local marketers can sell.

Additionally, there are several other provisions in the law, such as extending the lower excise tax rate on ethanol blended gasoline, exempting from fire marshal registration certain sized farm fuel tanks which will help expand farm storage when supplies are tight.

Iowa State Growing Algae for Biofuel, Other Uses

ISUalgae1Researchers at Iowa State have a new facility to grow algae for a variety of uses, including biofuel production. This news release from the school says the facility’s innovative design is attracting a lot of interest from other universities and private industry.

The facility contains a novel biofilm-based cultivation system designed by Martin Gross, a graduate assistant in agricultural and biosystems engineering, and Zhiyou Wen, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition.

The cultivation system allows for easy separation of algae from water, which is usually an expensive and often time-consuming process requiring the use of a centrifuge or other costly equipment. The new cultivation system at Iowa State sidesteps that process by passing through the nutrient-rich water a cotton-based biofilm, which collects the algae. After that, the algae are simply scraped off the cotton material. It’s a simpler, more efficient way to cultivate algae, Wen said.

The school compares the technologies at the facility to a lazy river, with a shallow channel of water and a gentle current to keep the water moving, as well as 200-liter flat panel bioreactors.

Reactions to EPA Vehicle Emissions Proprosed Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked for comments regarding its RFA-logo-13proposed rule on Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards and the industry responded in force. Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) noted that for the most part, the air toxics the EPA is reviewing pertain to refiners of gasoline and auto manufacturers, although there are a few areas of concern for ethanol producers.

ncga-logo-newThe National Corn Growers Association’s (NCGA) comments were based upon two main principles: first, the RFS volumes of biofuels in the future should be met in order to preserve the 150 million metric tons of annual CO2 equivalent emission reductions attributed to the RFS 2 program by EPA; and second that ethanol blends above E10 should be splash-blended to increase octane above the level of 87 AKI. Doing this would support EPA’s approach toward establishing E15 as the new certification fuel for 2017 and later non-flexible fueled light duty vehicles.

Along these same lines, the RFA supports treating E16-E50 blends as alternative fuels.

“EPA clearly recognizes that the most effective and efficient way to achieve the important goals of the proposed rule is to work to harmonize it with other policies affecting and regulating the transportation fuel sector throughout the country, including the RFS, Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE), and California’s Low Emission BIOlogoVehicle Program,” writes Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section in formal comments. “BIO supports the proposed rule and believes that the final Tier 3 rule has the potential to encourage the continued development and commercialization of all biofuels.”

Erickson, like other biofuel groups noted that the EPA should work to set the emissions of test fuel in a way that will maximize investment and adoption of all biofuels, including higher ethanol blends and drop-in fuels, while also maximizing the level of octane in the fuel supply.

July 1st – Independence Day for Iowa Fuel Retailers

July 1, 2013 has now become “Independence Day” for Iowa fuel retailers as today marks the enactment of a new Iowa law that frees Iowa retailers from some Big Oil restrictions.

“Today, new liberties go into effect for Iowa’s fuel retailers. They now have the freedom to offer the fuel options they choose, not what Big Oil dictates,” said Iowa Renewable Fuel Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. “These new protections amount to a ‘Retailer Bill of Rights,’ providing relief from Big Oil’s heavy handed, branded contracts that E15 Approvedoften dictate if and how retailers offer certain fuels, like E15 and E85.”

H.F. 640, which takes effect today, includes language that prevents oil refiners’ supply agreements from directly or indirectly limiting the ability of local retailers to offer the ethanol and biodiesel blends they choose. The provisions are based on a law enacted in South Dakota in 2011 and addresses specific, anti-competition provisions from refiner supply agreements.

As a result, new supply agreements will not be allowed to:

  • Restrict installing a blender pump;
  • Restrict using current equipment from offering higher blends, like E15, E85, and B20;
  • Restrict ethanol or biodiesel blends from being advertised;
  • Restrict the locations where a retailer may offer the higher blends (like under a canopy); and
  • Restrict payment for higher blends to cash only (no credit cards).

“While protecting Big Oil trademarks, this piece of legislation not only gives Iowa retailers more freedom to offer the ethanol and biodiesel blends they choose, it also allows Iowa’s consumers greater access to low-cost, homegrown, renewable fuel options,” added Shaw. “More ethanol and biodiesel blends at the pump equates to greater fueling freedom, American jobs and American energy security—all great things to celebrate on Independence Day.”