Vilsack Announces Advanced Biofuels Roundtable

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the 2012 Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, presented by Biofuels Digest, Tuesday in Washington D.C. and announced an upcoming Advanced Biofuels Industry Roundtable to be held next month.

Vilsack said the Roundtable will be a joint effort between USDA, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Navy and will be held on May 18 “as the next step in the partnership with the private sector to produce advanced biofuels to power military and commercial transportation.”

“Advanced biofuels are a key component of President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to limit the impact that foreign oil has on our economy and take control of our energy future,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By bringing together farmers, scientists, and the private sector to produce fuel for the American military, we can help spur an industry producing biofuels from non-food feedstocks all over the nation, strengthen our middle class, and help create an economy built to last.”

The roundtable will focus on efforts to accelerate the production of bio-based fuels for military and commercial purposes and will address the next steps for the production of aviation biofuels and marine diesel. Topics will include production, distribution and contracting, and best practices. This roundtable follows a “match making” event hosted last week at USDA headquarters to promote connections between agricultural producers of energy feedstocks, and biorefineries.

The conference this week in Washington has the theme of “Go Big, Stay Strong” and features dozens of top officials from advanced biofuels companies, as well as a special full-day session Thursday on Military & Aviation Biofuels.

Oregon Governor Tours ZeaChem Biorefinery

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber took a tour of the ZeaChem 250,000 gallon-per-year biorefinery in Boardman Monday as the company announced it has begun construction on the Department of Energy-funded project for the production of cellulosic ethanol.

Earlier this year, the company announced the start of operations of the core facility for the production of intermediate chemicals acetic acid and ethyl acetate.

“ZeaChem is exactly the type of innovative company that is driving Oregon’s economy and revitalizing our rural communities,” said Governor Kitzhaber. “This facility and the planned commercial plant are creating quality jobs, while producing sustainable alternatives to fossil-fuel products by using local resources.”

“We welcome Governor Kitzhaber to our Boardman biorefinery and appreciate the tremendous support we’ve received from his office, the state of Oregon and the DOE during the construction of our plant,” said Jim Imbler, president and chief executive officer of ZeaChem. “Building the cellulosic ethanol capacity on to our core technology is a significant milestone as we ramp up to commercial production of advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals.”

ZeaChem’s proprietary core technology produces intermediate chemicals acetic acid and ethyl acetate, both high-value products for applications including paints, lacquers and solvents. The DOE project adds the capacity to use cellulosic biomass on the front end and convert ethyl acetate into ethanol on the back end. It is supported by a $25 million cooperative agreement from the DOE. The integrated biorefinery will begin cellulosic ethanol production in 2012.

EPA Approves E15 as a Registered Fuel

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally taken the official step of approving 15% ethanol blended gasoline (E15) as a registered fuel.

On Monday, the EPA announced the approval of the first applications for registration of ethanol to make E15. “Registration of ethanol to make E15 is a significant step toward its production, sale, and use in model year 2001 and newer gasoline-fueled cars and light trucks,” EPA stated in a release.

To enable widespread use of E15, the Obama Administration has set a goal to help fueling station owners install 10,000 blender pumps over the next 5 years. In addition, both through the Recovery Act and the 2008 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Department of Agriculture have provided grants, loans and loan guarantees to spur American ingenuity on the next generation of biofuels.

Today’s action follows an extensive technical review required by law. Registration is a prerequisite to introducing E15 into the marketplace. Before it can be sold, manufactures must first take additional measures to help ensure retail stations and other gasoline distributors understand and implement labeling rules and other E15-related requirements. EPA is not requiring the use or sale of E15.

Ethanol organizations applauded this development in the three year effort to approve sale of the mid-level ethanol blend as “one step closer to seeing low-cost, renewable E15 sold into the American fuels marketplace.”

Growth Energy“This announcement strengthens the ethanol industry’s efforts to innovate and continue to deliver domestically-produced and affordable alternatives to foreign oil,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “With ethanol selling an average of a dollar a gallon cheaper than gasoline and $4 a gallon gasoline on the horizon, we’d encourage all Americans to ask their local filling station how soon they will see more-affordable E15.”

RFAWith higher gasoline prices in recent months, Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen says the approval means American consumers may soon have some much deserved relief at the pump. “States in the Midwest have begun to address their regulatory requirements and perhaps as early as summer we could see E15 at fuel stations in the Heartland of America,” said Dinneen. “The future for consumers, ethanol producers and this country has just gotten a little brighter, a little stronger.”

Under the EPA approval, fuel containing ethanol volume up to 15 percent is permitted to be used in model year 2001 and newer cars and light trucks. Gas pumps dispensing E15 will be clearly labeled so consumers can make the right choice.

Research Shows Value of Ethanol Co-Product for Dairy

Research by a South Dakota State University dairy science student shows the energy value of the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGS) in dairy feed.

Sanjeewa Ranathunga was recognized for his research at the recent annual meeting of the Midwest American Dairy Science Association meetings with the Young Dairy Scholars Award.

Ranathunga is in the final stages of his Ph.D. program in dairy cattle nutrition at South Dakota State University under the guidance of Dr. Kenneth Kalscheur, Associate Professor in Dairy Science. During his time at SDSU, Ranathunga has conducted valuable research looking at DDGS and their impact on dairy cattle diets.

Ranathunga began his Master’s program at SDSU in dairy cattle nutrition under Kalscheur after completing an M.S. in Biochemistry at Pukyong National University in Busan, South Korea.

His Master’s research demonstrated that the non-forage fiber provided from DDGS and soyhulls can effectively replace starch provided by corn in dairy cow diets without negatively affecting the performance of dairy cows.

This research revealed that DDGS can be used as an effective energy source to replace high priced corn, and can decrease the feed cost of the diet. According to income over feed cost analysis, an economic advantage if $1.42 per cow per day was observed in this study when feeding the 21 percent DDGS diet compared with 0 percent DDGS diet.

Read more from

Most Corn Acres Since 1937 Expected

The last time the United States planted as many corn acres as USDA is predicting for this year, Franklin D. Roosevelt was just entering his second term as president.

It was 1937 when an estimated 97.2 million acres were planted. This year, the USDA Prospective Planting report predicts that corn growers will plant nearly 96 million acres – 95.9 million to be exact. That’s four percent more than last year and nine percent higher than in 2010. Corn acres are expected to increase or stay the same in 40 states, with the biggest increases in Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio.

“Even after a difficult growing season last year, farmers harvested a bountiful crop to meet all needs, and it seems that they are on track to break records in 2012,” said National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer of Illinois. “This report shows that the innovative American farmer understands the increasing global demands of corn for food, feed, fuel and fiber and that they see the importance of meetings those needs.”

The greater acreage could more than make up for the lower grain stocks in USDA’s latest Quarterly Report, also released on Friday. In that summary, USDA says corn stocks are 8% lower than they were a year ago at just over 6 billion bushels. Of that, 3.19 billion bushels are stored on farms, down 6% from last year.

The unseasonably warm weather already this spring has farmers itching to plant, but most in the Midwest are holding off for a few more weeks, just to be safe. Nebraska Corn Board Director of Research Kelly Brunkhorst says farmers in the Cornhusker State are responding to market signals with the investment necessary to meet demand. “That corn is converted to meat, milk and eggs, ethanol, distillers grains, bioplastics and more,” Brunkhorst said. “Corn is the foundation for all of that, so getting the crop in the ground and off to a good start this spring is critical.”

Nebraska farmers planted 9.85 million acres to corn last year – largest acreage since the 1930’s – and they intend to top that by 450,000 this year.

Farm Bill Energy Legislation Introduced

Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced legislation this week that would reauthorize and fund the primary energy programs included in the current Farm Bill.

The Rural Energy Investment Act would include a mandatory total of $1.275 billion over 5 years to strengthen the biobased markets program, fund the Biorefinery Assistance Program, reauthorize and fund the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Biomass Research and Development Program.

“We can and we must transition to cleaner, more sustainable energy systems, and rural America will play a crucial role in this transition,” said Sen. Harkin. “As we are formulating the next farm bill, it is even more critical that we include strong programs that encourage production and use of biomass feedstocks for advanced biofuels and biomaterials, as well as assisting farmers and ranchers with adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to replace their aging energy systems.”

The Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC) says this legislation should serve as a bi-partisan basis for the Energy Title as the Senate begins debate on a new Farm Bill, which is scheduled to expire in September 2012. “Imagine a future in farm country that provides advanced biofuels for cars and trucks, even planes, wind, solar and geothermal power for our homes and schools, cleans the air and water, and vastly improves our national security – this is all happening now and will continue if we stay the course,” said Lloyd Ritter, a co-director of AgEC.

The AgEC includes organizations and companies representing renewable energy and bioproducts stakeholders committed to seeing a strong bi-partisan energy title in the 2012 farm bill.

Senators Introduce Domestic Fuels Act of 2012

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) this week introduced bipartisan legislation that would “help produce more energy, increase competition, promote alternative fuels, provide more consumer choice and lower the cost of fuels at the pump.”

amy klobucharSen. Klobuchar says the Domestic Fuels Act of 2012 would make it easier to market all fuels and give consumers more choice at the pump. “This would cut through red tape and help provide the clear standards needed to increase competition and bring homegrown energy to consumers,” said Klobuchar. “Now is the time to increase domestic production of energy, focus on the homegrown energy solutions that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and give consumers choice at the pump.”

The bill would streamline the regulatory process so that all fuels, both traditional and renewable, can be stored and dispensed with common equipment. It also requires the EPA to develop streamlined criteria so that underground tanks can be used to dispense gasoline, diesel, ethanol or some combination of fuels, rather than requiring the use of separate tanks.

Also included in the legislation is liability protection for retailers that meet the streamlined EPA standards, so that they can sell multiple types of fuel with less red tape, providing consumers with more choice and lower fuel prices, and it establishes a new pathway for retailers to ensure that their equipment is safe and legally recognized as compatible to sell new fuels, thereby reducing the cost of entry for many retailers.

The measure is supported by a number of diverse industries and associations, including the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, American Petroleum Institute, Tesoro Corp., American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Petroleum Marketers Association of America, Exxon-Mobile, Association of Convenience Stores, Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, National Association of Truck Stop Operators and Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.

Senate Rejects Obama Push to End Oil Subsidies

Despite a last minute plea by President Obama, the Senate today rejected a plan to end oil company subsidies.

“Right now, the biggest oil companies are raking in record profits –- profits that go up every time folks pull up into a gas station,” said Obama in a Rose Garden speech this morning. “But on top of these record profits, oil companies are also getting billions a year — billions a year in taxpayer subsidies -– a subsidy that they’ve enjoyed year after year for the last century.”

The president stressed the need for increased domestic oil and gas production, but also for alternative energy. “It also means that we’re going to keep developing more advanced homegrown biofuels, the kinds that are already powering truck fleets across America,” he said. “We’re going to keep investing in clean energy like the wind power and solar power that’s already lighting thousands of homes and creating thousands of jobs.”

Truman Project Fellow and Operation Free Veteran Terron Sims was present at the Rose Garden address (top center in photo) and said he was proud to stand with the President and offer support for the administration’s energy initiatives to reduce dependence on foreign sources of oil. “I’m glad that my Commander in Chief is doing what it takes to make sure we have true energy independence by taking steps to reduce our oil use and increase clean, renewable sources of American energy,” Sims said. “I hope Congress will work with the President on these goals for the sake of America’s security.”

Sims is a former US Army Captain and Iraq War veteran. Operation Free, a campaign of the Truman National Security Project, is a national coalition of US military veterans working to send the message that America’s security relies on ending our addiction to oil and establishing clean, renewable sources of energy.

The attempt to curtail oil company tax breaks was defeated in a Senate filibuster this morning to prevent the legislation from advancing. Republicans against the measure were joined in opposition by Democrats from oil-rich states.

GROWMARK Tracking Biofuels Legislative Issues

Legislative issues related to biofuels on both the Illinois state level and the national level are priorities for the GROWMARK agricultural cooperative system this year, according to government affairs director Chuck Spencer.

On the state level, Spencer says Illinois will be looking at updating sales tax incentives this year with the pending introduction of 15% ethanol blends in the consumer marketplace. “The state of Illinois has been very good at recognizing the benefits and values of biofuels, not only for the economic opportunities but also for consumers,” he said. “Right now we have a tax credit focused on E10 and as we know E15 is making it through the approval process on the national level so we’re looking at how we can adjust our state programs to match up with the increased levels of renewable fuels, 15% or even higher for ethanol in the gasoline supply.”

On the national level, maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard is important for GROWMARK and its grower members. “We are one of the larger renewable fuel distributors in the nation,” Spencer said. “We can foresee the productivity of supply on the ethanol side continuing to provide a benefit in keeping fuel costs down for consumers and we’re getting ready to plant one of the largest crops we’ve seen in quite a while so agriculture is ready to meet the demand and we’re hopeful that the rest of the country understands how important that is.”

Since GROWMARK is part owner in a Missouri-based biodiesel plant, Spencer says renewal of the biodiesel tax incentive is also important to them.

Listen to my interview with Chuck Spencer here: GROWMARK's Chuck Spencer

Novozymes CEO Named BIO 2012 George Washington Carver Award Winner

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has named Novozymes President and CEO Steen Riisgaard as the recipient of its 2012 George Washington Carver Award for innovation in industrial biotechnology.

A panel selected Riisgaard as this year’s winner “to recognize his significant contributions to the industrial biotechnology field.”

Under Riisgaard’s leadership, Novozymes is creating tomorrow’s industrial biotechnology solutions and improving the use of our planet’s resources, while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Riisgaard will receive the award and also deliver a short address during a May 1, 2012 plenary lunch session at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing. The conference is being held at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando April 29-May 2.
Washington Carver Award Recipient

“I am honored to receive the 2012 George Washington Carver Award,” Riisgaard said. “At Novozymes, we see biotechnology as a way to reshape the world’s economy and create balance between better business, a cleaner environment and better lives. This award is a mandate to continue innovating with our customers, moving towards a world where everyday products are made with organic materials instead of oil.”

The award honors the original vision of George Washington Carver, an originator of the “chemurgy” movement who, more than a century ago, achieved world renown by combining agriculture and science to produce everyday biobased products, changing the nature of farm economics and sustainability. Industrial biotechnology is the modern-day equivalent, combining biotech innovations with renewable biomass to create solutions that can revitalize manufacturing and energy.