China Imports Record Amount of US Ethanol

usda-logoU.S. ethanol exports to China hit record numbers this year. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is crediting the rise to its trade mission last year that helped push overall agricultural imports to China to three times what they were just a decade ago.

“Our objective for every trade mission is to create new markets for farm products made in rural America,” said USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse, who led the mission. “U.S. ethanol exports to China have jumped from $8 million to more than $86 million since our May 2014 visit. In October, we exported more ethanol to China than in the previous 10 years combined.”

Scuse led the delegation to promote U.S. agriculture, and explore the role that renewable fuels might play in China’s long-term clean energy strategy. The delegation met with gasoline companies, fuel blenders, oil companies, commodity traders, and government officials to promote the benefits of using higher ethanol blends. During October, the U.S. exported 32.5 million gallons of ethanol to China, valued at $57 million, or 46 percent of total U.S. ethanol exports for the month. Previous U.S. exports of ethanol to China averaged less than $3 million annually from 2005 to 2014.

Earlier this year, USDA partnered with 21 states through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) to nearly double the number of fueling pumps nationwide, expanding the ethanol refueling infrastructure by nearly 5,000 pumps, a $210 million investment that will give consumers access to clean, American-made biofuels, and provide more choices at the pump.

“These are the kind of initiatives that strengthen our rural communities, and open new doors and help our farmers and ranchers capitalize on the tremendous export potential for American agricultural products,” said Scuse.

Carson Supports RFS through 2022

carson-nwDuring a recent campaign stop in Iowa Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said the promise of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) needs to be kept through 2022.

“(A)s far as the Renewable Fuel Standard is concerned, there were certain promises that were made that extend out until 2022. And many people, you know, invested a lot of time, energy and resources based on those promises that were made. Those promises have to be kept,” said Carson during an appearance at Northwestern University in Orange City, Iowa on December 18.

According to America’s Renewable Future (ARF), Carson made similar comments at stops in Council Bluffs and Carroll, Iowa this month.

“Carson’s grasp of the issue of the RFS has tightened and we are glad to see him recognize the importance of keeping the promise made to investors and the 73,000 Iowans whose livelihoods depend on it,” said America’s Renewable Future State Director Eric Branstad.

ARF will be releasing a final report card in early January designating each candidate as either good or bad on the RFS. ARF will let Iowans know where the candidates stand through paid media and grassroots efforts.

Listen to Carson’s comments here: GOP candidate Ben Carson on RFS

Ethanol Report Looks at 2015 in Review

ethanol-report-ad2015 was another year of highs and lows for the ethanol industry. Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen says many of the positives, such as record production and increased exports, were offset by negatives like tighter margins and trade barriers.

In this Ethanol Report, Dinneen takes a look back at some of the good news and bad news for the ethanol industry in 2015 as we prepare to enter another new year.

Ethanol Report on 2015 Year in Review

Talking Politics at National Ethanol Conference

Some world class political discussion should be expected at the National Ethanol Conference (NEC), Feb. 15-17, 2016, in New Orleans. Political experts Mike Murphy and Paul Begala will get together for a point-counterpoint luncheon discussion on the 2016 election.

murphy1Mike Murphy – Political Strategist, Political Analyst for NBC News and Contributing Editor, TIME
Murphy is one of the Republican Party’s most successful political media consultants, having handled strategy and advertising for more than 26 successful gubernatorial and Senatorial campaigns. Murphy has been called a “media master” by FORTUNE magazine, the GOP’s “hottest media consultant” by Newsweek and the leader of a “new breed” of campaign consultants by Congressional Quarterly.

begala1Paul Begala – Political Analyst and Commentator for CNN
Begala has consulted for political campaigns across the country and around the world and is part of the political team at CNN that has won both an “Emmy” and a “Peabody Award”. In the 2012 campaign he was a senior adviser for the pro-Obama Super PAC, making Begala one of the few people to play a critical role in electing two different presidents. After helping engineer Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, Begala served as counselor to the President, one of Clinton’s closest aides.

More information and registration are available here.

Ethanol in Ag Economic Outlook

astacss15-basseAt the ASTA CSS 2015 and Seed Expo last week, AgResource Company president Dan Basse presented his economic outlook for agriculture during the opening general session for the fifth year in a row, and once more biofuels figured into the picture.

Basse talked about a “world awash in grain” with record global wheat and soybean crops and second largest corn crop, and a mature U.S. ethanol industry. “They (biofuels) are not going away, they’re not getting any bigger, but we are mature and still utilizing somewhere around 5 to 5.1 billion bushels of corn in this country for biofuels,” he said.

Basse says that the new standards from EPA under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will drive some growth but not much. “It will have a little impact,” he said. “We think it adds maybe 170 million bushels of corn demand in 2016 … it’s a help, we’ll take anything we can get, however it doesn’t change the fabric of the agricultural markets. We still have too much supply both domestically and internationally.”

He does see some increase in ethanol exports. “But today we’re only shipping out about six and a half percent of our ethanol that we produce in this country for export,” he said. “It may grow slowly but it’s not a game changer.”

Listen to my interview with Basse here: Interview with Dan Basse, AgResource Company

Cruz Talks Ethanol at Iowa Event

cruz-rts-1Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has gotten a sudden bump in the polls, showing him now leading front runner Donald Trump among committed Iowa caucus goers.

On Friday, Trump criticized Cruz’s lack of support for ethanol, but on December 5 the senator appeared at the FreedomWorks Rising Tide Summit in Cedar Rapids and spoke very favorably about ethanol, saying in his speech that as president he would “take on the EPA’s blend wall that is preventing ethanol and biofuels from having a larger share of the marketplace.”

Asked about ethanol by reporters at the event, Cruz expanded on that comment. “One of the things I am committed to doing is expanding market access to ethanol,” he said. “Right now you see federal regulatory barriers, you see EPA blocking ethanol’s ability to access the market. As president, I will remove those barriers.”

Cruz specifically said he supports all sources of energy, including ethanol. “I think God has blessed this country with abundant natural resources,” he said. “But you shouldn’t have government picking winners and losers. My tax plan that I’ve introduced eliminates every subsidy across the board for energy,” he added, including oil.

Asked if ethanol can survive without the Renewable Fuel Standard, Cruz said, “Not only would ethanol survive without the RFS, ethanol can and will grow. There is a market demand for ethanol. Ethanol adds octane to gasoline in an environmentally responsible matter, and right now the barrier to ethanol expanding is the federal government.”

Listen to Cruz’s comments here: Cruz comments on ethanol in Iowa

Trump Hits Cruz on Ethanol

trump-iowaDuring an appearance at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Friday, Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump talked about his support for ethanol and how his primary rival in the state, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, supports oil.

“Where are the ethanol people?” Trump asked the crowd, which cheered in return. “I was here a month ago, I met with them all and they do a fantastic job – I toured the plants….it’s so important.”

Trump says he doesn’t understand why Sen. Cruz is doing so well in Iowa when he is against ethanol. “He’s got to come a long way because he’s right now for the oil,” Trump said. “I understand it. Oil pays him a lot of money. He’s got to be for oil, right? The oil companies give him a lot of money. But I’m with you. I’m with everybody. Look, I’m self-funding. I have no oil company. I have no special interest.”

After a question about Cruz and his lack of support for ethanol, Trump added, “If Ted Cruz is against ethanol, how does he win in Iowa, because that’s very anti-Iowa.”

Listen to Trump’s comments here: Trump comments on ethanol in Iowa

Global Groups Call on COP21 to Support Biofuels

Biofuels organizations representing multiple nations may have their differences but they have come together in a call for world leaders attending the COP21 in Paris to set a goal for increasing use of biofuels for transportation.

climate-summitThe call for a global commitment to replace at least 15 percent of the world’s total oil use in transport with sustainable biofuels by 2030 was issued by five biofuel and biotech organizations in conjunction with a joint industry event held at the World Climate Summit on Sunday in Paris during COP21. The event was organized by five biofuel and biotech organizations that collectively represent over 330 companies responsible for 90 percent of the world’s biofuels production.

At the Summit, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) released a new report showing the significant contribution that biofuels have made to greenhouse gas reduction worldwide and could make in the future. According to the report, total GHG emission reductions from biofuels for 2014 was estimated at 169 million tonnes CO2 equivalent. Projecting a conservative annual growth rate of 2.8 percent in biofuel production and use through the year 2030, the report forecasts that emission savings could increase to 264 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, a 56 percent increase.

“This report sends a clear message to policy makers around the world that while the GHG emission reductions currently being delivered by biofuels are substantial, the sector can deliver much more,” said GRFA president Bliss Baker.

The COP21 United Nations climate change conference concludes December 11.

RINs’ Rise Shows Ethanol-Biodiesel Relationship

Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) prices jumped sharply after tge Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final numbers for the amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. This analysis from University of Illinois’ Scott Irwin and Darrel Good says not only were the EPA numbers a shock and reflected in the RINs’ prices, but it also shows the relationship between the two green fuels.
eth-biod rins
The price of D4 biodiesel RINs went up 30 percent and the price of D6 ethanol RINs increased over 90 percent in the three trading days following the release. The market was apparently surprised by how much the final conventional ethanol mandates, particularly in 2016, breached the E10 blend wall. In addition, the final rulemaking clearly signaled that the EPA is serious about getting “the RFS back on track,” and it would not be surprising if the EPA set the conventional ethanol mandate at the statutory level of 15.0 billion gallons as soon as 2017. The prospect of large conventional mandate gaps versus the E10 blend wall evidently shifted the expectation of market participants from one where the existing stock of RINs would not be exhausted for years to one where the stocks could be exhausted in a matter of months. When the stock of RINs is exhausted, the conventional gaps have to be filled by higher ethanol blends, such as E15 and E85, or biodiesel and renewable diesel. Our theoretical model predicts that the price of a D6 ethanol RINs should equal the price of a D4 biodiesel RINs if biodiesel and renewable diesel are the only feasible options for filling conventional mandate gaps. Consequently, the move of D6 RINs prices to nearly the same level as D4 RINs prices in the days following the November 30 release is an unmistakable sign that the market believes higher ethanol blends are not a feasible source of RINs to fill conventional gaps. Instead, biodiesel and renewable diesel are perceived to be the only viable options for filling the expected conventional gaps.

Hybrid Yeast to Give Rise to Better Biofuel Production

galls_beech_tree10_4536Researchers in Wisconsin, a state already known for its good use of yeast for the brewing of beer, are developing yeast hybrids that would also help in biofuels production. This article from the University of Wisconsin says the scientists at the school continue to find more strains suited for the green fuel making.

“We can achieve hybrids at rates of one in a thousand cells,” notes William Alexander, a University of Wisconsin-Madison postdoctoral research associate and the lead author of a paper describing the new method in a special synthetic biology issue of the journal Fungal Genetics and Biology. “It is much more efficient than nature.”

There are hundreds of known species of yeasts and they occupy almost every ecological niche imaginable worldwide. They are essential to the process of fermentation, where the microbes convert sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeasts are used widely to not only make beer, wine and bread, but also cider, whiskey, cheese, yogurt, soy sauce and an array of other fermented foods and beverages. In industry, yeasts are used to produce biofuels and to make enzymes, flavors and pigments and even drugs such as human insulin.

An ability to quickly and efficiently churn out new yeast interspecies hybrids means industries that depend on yeasts will have many more organisms to experiment with to make new flavors, enhance production and produce entirely new products, explains Chris Todd Hittinger, a UW-Madison professor of genetics and the senior author of the new study…

The new yeast hybridization method uses plasmids, circles of DNA that can be built into an organism to confer a genetic quality. In the lab, plasmids are routinely used to manipulate genes in cells. Genes in the plasmids facilitate yeast hybridization by expressing a naturally occurring yeast protein that allows two distinct species of yeasts to mate.

“The advantages of the technique are speed, efficiency, and precision,” says Hittinger, a world authority on yeast genetics and a co-discoverer of the wild Patagonian yeast that formed the lager beer hybrid. “Within a week, you can generate a large number of hybrids of whatever two species you want, creating forms never seen before.”

Funding for the research comes from grants from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy through the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.