Iowa Legislature Votes for Blender Pumps

Iowa will see another year of funding for retailers to add blender pumps. The Iowa Legislature voted unanimously to allocate funding for the biodiesel and ethanol blender pump program known as the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP). The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) recently reported that interest in blender pumps is at an all time high and the last round of funding, totaling $3.2 million funded 68 projects. This marks the last year of funding for the program that kicks off the FY2017 fiscal year.

Biodiesel and ethanol pump in Des Moines, Iowa on April 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Biodiesel and ethanol pump in Des Moines, Iowa on April 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

“While we were hopeful for a long-term funding solution for the state’s renewable fuels infrastructure program, we’re very pleased today that the Iowa legislature was able to keep this vital initiative going for another year,” said IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “The USDA’s Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership re-energized many Iowa retailers, leading to record participation in the blender pump program over the past year. This one-year funding extension allows us to build upon this momentum and ensure Iowans have greater access to cleaner-burning, lower-cost renewable fuels.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP) offers cost-share grants to Iowa retailers wishing to upgrade fueling infrastructure to offer E15, E85 and/or biodiesel blends. Reimbursement can be up to 70 percent of the installation costs, up to a maximum of $50,000 per project, with a five-year commitment to sell E15, E85 or biodiesel blends.

“This legislation does permanently end the current source of RFIP funding, so finding a long-term funding solution will be a high priority for the biofuels and renewable retailers community next legislative session. Bottom line, this program provides immense benefits to Iowans in the form of cleaner air, competition at the pump, lower fuel prices, and a stronger Iowa economy,” added Menke.

Indiana’s Family Express Awarded Blender Grant

fe-logoIndiana fuel retailer Family Express has been awarded more than $789,000 through an Indiana blender pump program. The retailer will be using the monies to install 45 dispensers at 37 stations. Of the stations, 34 already sell E85 and E15 will be added to the fuel choice lineup. Family Express is also building three new stations and these will carry both E85 and E15. The grant dollars were awarded by the Indiana Corn Marketing Council through its Hoosier Homegrown Fuels Blender Pump Program.

“We are glad to be able to help Family Express offer more ethanol blender pumps through the Hoosier Homegrown Fuels Blender Pump Program,” said Ken Parrent, ethanol director for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “Indiana currently has more than 185 dedicated ethanol refueling stations for blends above 10 percent and thanks to this program, there will soon be more.”

Fiftenn of the stations are in EPA-designated ozone non-attainment areas and will be able to offer E15 year-round. The ethanol industry is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow E15 to be sold year round in all 50 states.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said of the news, “We are pleased that Family Express has been able to take advantage of the Hoosier Homegrown Fuels Blender Pump Program and grow its offerings of higher ethanol blends. More blender pumps mean greater consumer access for ethanol blends, bringing about higher octane fuels and lower gasoline prices. We look forward to more stations offering fuels such as E15 in the near future.”

Retailers Tell Success Stories at #ACE16DC

ace16-dc-retailersFuel retailers disputed the existence of the mythical “blend wall” and told their success stories selling higher ethanol blends during a Congressional briefing last week at the end of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) legislative fly-in. Participants in the briefing for Congressional staffers were ACE Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty, Pearson Fuels CEO Mike Lewis and Midway Service Owner Bruce Vollan.

“For years, we’ve been battling against an avalanche of misinformation about ethanol, the RFS, and E15, and yet there seem to be some lawmakers who have just given into this “cartoon villain” version of ethanol and are opposed for reasons that don’t exist,” said Lamberty. “Among the most frequent objections we hear are station owners don’t want to sell higher blends of ethanol, customers won’t buy them, and those factors create a mythical “blend wall” that makes it impossible to get beyond ten percent as required by the RFS. The best way to bust all of those myths is to introduce policymakers to people like Bruce and Mike whose real-world stories prove the naysayers are wrong, and higher ethanol blends are creating tremendous opportunities for station owners.”

Vollan talked about how has seen ethanol blends help his store grow from a tiny gas station into a multipurpose convenience and auto repair stop, and noted that he has never had customers report any damage from using higher ethanol blends. Pearson Fuels is a supplier of multiple locations offering E15 and E85 to drivers in the Pacific Coast and Lewis discussed the growth he has seen in demand since opening the nation’s first Alternative Fuel Station in San Diego in 2003.

ACE 2016 DC Fly-in Photo Album

#FlexMyChoice Fighting for FFV Future

flexmychoiceThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) launched a new campaign at the 2016 National Ethanol Conference (NEC) designed to help the industry voice support for flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs).

The “Flex My Choice” effort is aimed directly at automakers, auto dealerships, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to the fact that automakers have begun to limit FFV models as the government phases out CAFE credits for producing FFVs.

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, we hear from RFA CEO Bob Dinneen, Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White, and RFA Chairman Randall Doyal with Al-Corn Clean Fuel in Minnesota about #FlexMyChoice and why it is important to make a difference.

Listen to it here: Ethanol Report on Flex My Choice campaign

#FlexMyChoice Massages at #Classic16

classic16-rfaVisitors to the 2016 Commodity Classic had the opportunity to voice their support for Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) and relax their aching muscles at the same time at the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) booth.

It was the first opportunity for RFA to get their recently launched “Flex My Choice” campaign in front of the agriculture industry and Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White says many of the people they spoke to at Classic had no idea that auto makers were cutting their production of FFVs. “It doesn’t matter what part of agriculture you’re coming from, the phasing out or elimination of flex fuel vehicles will be devastating to the advancement and growth of our industry,” said White.

Beginning this year, the fuel economy credits given to auto makers for building flex fuel vehicles were phased out. “Ironically, now we have incentives for natural gas vehicles, so we’re encouraging fossil fuel usage over an alternative like E85,” White said.

Classic attendees who visited the RFA booth were able to fill out post cards to be sent to the main three automobile manufacturers, as well as EPA. While doing that, they were also able to get a nice chair massage, which was welcome relief for many who spent the day walking through the huge trade show catering to corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum farmers.

Listen to Robert explain more about Flex My Choice in this interview: Interview with Robert White, RFA, at Commodity Classic

2016 Commodity Classic Photo Album

#RFANEC Panel on Marketing Higher Ethanol Blends

nec16-sheetzA really interesting session on getting more higher ethanol blends in the retail market unfortunately got cut a little short at the National Ethanol Conference this week due to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s visit, but you can listen to the presentations by two industry leaders here.

Pennsylvania-based Sheetz, Inc. is a family-owned chain of gas station/convenience stores located in six states. Michael Lorenz, Sheetz executive vice president of petroleum supply, says they made a commitment last year to put E15 in 60 North Carolina stores. “We’re currently actually in 34 stores, so it’s kind of a dubious honor but we’re the single largest retailer of E15 in the country,” said Lorenz to applause. “We also plan to do another 100 locations in four other states.”

In his presentation, Lorenz talks about why they chose to start in North Carolina, why the believe in E15, and how they are educating consumers about the fuel. Michael Lorenz of Sheetz at NEC16

nec16-protecThe job of Protec Fuel is to help retailers like Sheetz get the infrastructure they need to offer higher ethanol blends to consumers.

“We do station infrastructure and conversion, we handle E85 and E15 blending, we handle all the full logistics for them,” said Protec CEO Todd Garner. “So, essentially it’s a turnkey operation that allows the retailer to really not have to lift a finger to use E85 and E15.”

Garner was okay with having to give up some of his time on the program to accommodate Secretary Vilsack, since it is thanks to USDA’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) that they are being able to help more retailers offer higher ethanol blends. “We estimate about an extra 215 stations that we’re going to include into our existing infrastructure, which equates to about another 1000 dispensers that we will install over the next year or so,” said Garner.

Listen to Garner’s presentation here: Protec CEO Todd Garner at NEC16

View the Protec Fuel powerpoint presentation.

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

RFA Launches #FlexMyChoice Campaign

nec16-flexThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) launched a new campaign today at the National Ethanol Conference (NEC) designed to help the industry voice support for flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs).

The “Flex My Choice” effort is aimed directly at automakers, auto dealerships, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to the fact that automakers have begun to limit FFV models as the government phases out CAFE credits for producing FFVs.

“The auto companies claim there has not been meaningful consumer demand for these vehicles and the incremental cost, albeit trivial, cannot be justified in the absence of a more balanced CAFE regime,” said RFA CEO Bob Dinneen during his state of the industry address. “The ethanol industry needs to demonstrate the continued enthusiasm for FFVs. We want to raise our voices so that E85 and other mid-level ethanol fuels remain viable options for consumers.”

As part of the campaign, RFA intends to distribute 75,000 postcard pamphlets to targeted parties across the country in the hopes of changing the conversation on the future of FFV production. The postcard pamphlets will contain five panels: the first panel is a brief introduction to the issues; panels 2 through 4 are individual postcards to General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (the “Detroit Three”); and the fifth panel contains a pledge that consumers can drop off at their local auto dealership. Additionally, the campaign launched two petitions on www.Change.org directed at the automakers and the EPA respectively.

RFA vice president of industry relations Robert White says the campaign intends to ensure that consumers have choices when it comes to buying and fueling their vehicles. “Thanks to USDA, the ethanol industry, and agriculture, 2016 will mark the largest expansion of E85 stations in history; it is not the time to stop the momentum,” said White. “This campaign will send a clear signal to the automakers, their auto dealerships, and the EPA that there is a real demand on the part of consumers for more vehicle choices, more choices at the pump and increased access to higher ethanol blends.”

White explains more about the need for the campaign and how to participate in this interview: Interview with Robert White, RFA

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Iowa Corn Remains as Sponsor of Iowa Corn 300

Iowa Corn Growers Association along with Iowa Speedway have announced a multi-year sponsorship renewal of the IndyCar Series Iowa Corn 300 through 2018. This is the 10th year of partnership and the extension makes Iowa Corn the second longest entitlement sponsor in INDYCAR racing.

IowaCorn300“The Iowa Corn 300 reaches a global audience with an expanding viewership,” said Mark Heckman, Iowa Corn Promotion Board President and a farmer from West Liberty, Iowa. “What’s really cool is its ethanol powering those E85 Indy cars. The program exposes a broad audience to the state of Iowa, agriculture and corn farming while demonstrating the many benefits of ethanol including its power and performance. We had another phenomenal year in 2015, and we look forward to many more to come.”

According to Iowa Corn, Iowa Speedway serves as a platform to support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and promote the benefits of renewable fuels grown in America. The organization says INDYCAR weekend at Iowa Speedway is a culmination of the nearly 40 years of hard work and dedication necessary to build the corn-based ethanol market and raises awareness about Iowa farmers’ ability to produce corn for their key trades – livestock, ethanol production and exports.

“This has become a lauded Iowan tradition enjoyed by millions across the globe. We are incredibly proud to authentically demonstrate the performance of ethanol in the world’s fastest race cars here at the Fastest Short Track on the Planet,” said Iowa Speedway President Jimmy Small.

The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Iowa Corn 300 will be take place Sunday, July 10 and tickets are now on sale.

Reynolds, Naig Highlight Fueling Our Future 100

During the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit, Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, along with Mike Naig, deputy secretary of agriculture, highlighted the new “Fueling Our Future 100” program. In round one, the program has allocated $2.49 million dollars to help Iowa gas retailers install 107 blender pumps and 8 underground storage tanks to store high blends of ethanol. Naig said applications for the 2nd round of funding are due February 1, 2016.

Kim Reynolds and Mike NaigReynolds noted that each blender pump installed benefits Iowa’s agricultural economy and supports good jobs for Iowa families. Adding blender pumps also gives consumers more choices at the pump, she added.

“Thanks to the support of our federal partners at the USDA, the ‘Fueling our Future 100’ program is going to ensure that consumers in our state have greater access to biofuels.  We’re appreciative of companies like Five Star Coop, New Century Farm Services, Kum & Go, STAR Energy and Three Rivers Farm Services Company for their efforts in continuing to put Iowa on the forefront of an even greater renewable future.”

The  Fueling Our Future 100 received a $5 million competitive grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) program.  All funds must be matched by non-federal funds, including up to $2.5 million from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure program. The fueling sites applying for assistance will also be required to provide a minimum of $2.5 million.

Listen to Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynold’s remarks here: IA Lt Gov Kim Reynolds' Remarks

Listen to Iowa Ag Deputy Secretary Mike Naig’s remarks here: Mike Naig's Remarks

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

ACE: Tax Credits Will Increase Cheaper Ethanol Blends

Last week Congress approved the Omnibus Bill that included tax credit extensions for clean, renewable energy. One of these credits is for retail fuel station owners who buy equipment to offer alternative fuels such as E85. Ron Lamberty, American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) senior vice president and a fuel retailer, says additional ethanol blends  could further increase profitability for retailers.

E85 Sign December 2015

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

The Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Refueling Property Credit until the end of next year, according to Lamberty. The credit, which allows retail gas station owners to claim a 30% tax credit, up to a maximum of $30,000 per location for qualified AFV refueling infrastructure, originally expired on December 31, 2014.

“Marketers who saw the opportunity to gain new customers by offering E85 at the pump, also saw they could increase profits by selling the RIN credits they earned for selling higher ethanol blends. Some added pumps earlier this year, others will, in 2016,” said Lamberty “E85 compatible equipment costs more than standard or E25 compatible fueling equipment, and this credit helps offset some of that additional cost. That means retailers can pass the lower price of E85 through to consumers sooner, increasing volume and RIN profits, which most station owners use to reduce E85 prices even further.”

That means, says Lamberty, retailers can pass the lower price of E85 straight through to consumers, increasing volume and RIN profits, which most station owners use to reduce E85 prices even further.”

Lamberty pointed out that the credit is available for E85 fueling infrastructure only, and is scheduled to expire again at the end of 2016. “Fortunately, the equipment needed to sell ethanol blends up to E25 – including E15, adds only a few hundred dollars per dispenser,” he said.

“Having E15 – a lower cost, higher octane blend that 80 percent of the cars on the road can use – should justify that expense.  And with a growing number of station owners, including innovative retailers like Kum & Go, Sheetz and Protec, adding E15, consumers will quickly become more familiar and be looking for E15,” added Lamberty. “Those retailers were already selling E85 in some locations, and are expanding offerings through USDA’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) program. We’re hoping the availability of this tax credit inspires those companies and others to make higher ethanol blends available sooner, in even more places.”