EPA Officials Visit Kansas Ethanol Plant

EPA officials visit East Kansas Agri-Energy plant

EPA officials visit East Kansas Agri-Energy plant

In advance of a public hearing in Kansas City on the proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials visited East Kansas Agri-Energy (EKAE) in Garnett, Kansas Wednesday.

Federal and regional EPA personnel toured the 45 million gallon per year corn ethanol plant, examined progress on EKAE’s co-located renewable diesel project, and discussed the importance of the RFS with plant management and local investors. EPA also hand-delivered a letter to EKAE approving the company’s efficient producer pathway petition, which certifies that the company’s ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 27.2 percent compared to petroleum.

“Today’s event provided an excellent opportunity for key EPA officials to see firsthand the ethanol industry’s innovation and ingenuity,” said Jeff Oestmann, CEO of EKAE. “We were honored to host EPA, and we thank them for spending a few hours with us to learn more about the ethanol process, renewable diesel, and the importance of the biofuels industry to the Garnett community. We had a very productive discussion and hope they left here with a new appreciation for both the challenges and opportunities facing ethanol producers today.”

EKAE, which was founded by local farmers and business leaders, produced its first gallon of ethanol one month before the original RFS was adopted in 2005. In 2014, the company broke ground on a bolt-on renewable diesel facility, which will convert the corn distillers oil already produced at the plant into low-carbon advanced biofuel.

RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper, who also attended the tour, said EKAE is proof that the RFS is working. “EKAE is an excellent example of how the RFS provided the stability needed for first-generation biofuels like corn ethanol to succeed and flourish, then delivered the investment certainty required to develop second-generation biofuels like renewable diesel from corn distillers oil,” he said.

Both Oestmann and Cooper will be testifying today at the EPA hearing in Kansas City, along with more than 250 other industry stakeholders.

Listen to an interview with Oestmann and Cooper about the plant tour and hearing here: Interview with Jeff Oestmann, EKAE and Geoff Cooper, RFA

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

Brazilian Tariff on Imported Ethanol Increases

The Brazilian government this week increased the tariff on imported ethanol from 9.25 percent to 11.75 percent, effective immediately.

unicaThe Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) issued a statement regarding the changes to Brazil’s tax policy signed into law by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Monday.

Ethanol produced in Brazil is subject to a range of federal taxes with revenue allocated to social security, including the social participation program (PIS) and social security financing contribution (COFINS) on domestic production. Today’s action by President Rousseff will level the playing field between Brazilian sugarcane ethanol and imported biofuels by subjecting foreign renewable fuels to comparable taxation and should not be confused with an importation tariff.

It is important to note the PIS and COFINS paid on ethanol imports will turn into a credit for the importer, which may then be used to pay other tax debts or be reimbursed by the Brazilian government, having the effect of anticipated taxes that would already be collected.

“Brazilian sugarcane producers have long been strong advocates of removing trade barriers and creating tax parity for renewable fuels,” said Elizabeth Farina, UNICA President. “Working together, the United States and Brazil have built a thriving global biofuels trade benefiting both countries, and we look forward to continued progress toward shared environmental and economic goals.”

Corn Growers to Protest EPA’s Ethanol Cuts

rallyforruralamerica1Corn farmers are going to make their voice heard on the Obama Administration’s cuts to ethanol. The National Corn Growers Association says producers from more than a dozen states are expected to turn out at a public hearing and rally in Kansas City, Kansas, this Thursday, protesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to slash nearly 4 billion gallons of corn ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard through 2016.

“Last time, we were very clear to EPA about what we wanted,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling. “It is simple: EPA should follow the statute. For farmers and others in rural America, this new EPA proposal means low corn prices and ethanol plant and industry cutbacks. And for everyone, it means higher gas prices and dirtier air.”

All farmers who can make the trip are encouraged to attend the hearing and public rally, with free bus transportation provided from several points across four states – Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. The buses are scheduled so growers can depart and return the same day, and free food and refreshments will be provided.

A rally in conjunction with the public hearing will kick off at 11:30 a.m. at nearby Huron Park, with several prominent agriculture, business and political leaders talking about the importance of renewable fuels for rural America.

Iowa RFA President at American Ethanol 200

Iowa RFA president Brian Cahill (right) interviewed by KMA radio at American Ethanol 200

Iowa RFA president Brian Cahill (right) interviewed by KMA radio at American Ethanol 200

Iowa Renewable Fuels Association president Brian Cahill of Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy was at the NASCAR American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen last Friday to support ethanol and this week he will be in Kansas City, Kansas to do the same.

Iowa RFA members will be among those testifying at a public hearing on Thursday to explain what is wrong with EPA’s latest proposal to set volume obligations for biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “We’ll be testifying to show the benefits that ethanol provides to the whole country and also get the message across that EPA just can’t change the law,” said Cahill, who says that having the hearing in the Midwest will allow many RFS supporters to attend. “There’s more than just ethanol involved in this so hopefully we’ll see a good show of support for the biofuels industry in Kansas City.”

In this interview from the race on Friday, Cahill also talks about why growers who supply corn for his plant grow Syngenta Enogen, a corn trait designed specifically for ethanol production. Interview with Iowa RFA president Brian Cahill

2015 American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogen Photo Album

Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 sponsored by Enogen
Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 is sponsored by Enogen

RFA Supports American Agri-Women

AAW Drive TruckThe ethanol industry is supporting women in agriculture. The Renewable Fuels Association and Syngenta, maker of ethanol friendly Enogen corn, join a growing group of sponsors of the American Agri-Women Drive Across America. The nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agri-business women, is celebrating 40 years of advocating for agriculture with its “Drive Across America.”

AAW President Sue McCrum and other leaders will drive in a specially wrapped pick-up truck, participating in educational, network and advocacy events hosted by AAW’s more than 50 affiliates. The Drive will finish at the 2015 annual convention in Portland, Maine.

Better Switchgrass Makes for Better Biofuel

switchgrassWhile switchgrass is seen as a good candidate for biofuels, the challenge has been producing it in the quantities of biomass yield to make it worth the effort. But this story from the American Society of Agronomy says researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are looking at ways to make the plant more biofuel friendly.

[Michael Casler, a research geneticist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service,] and others are trying to [make a better switchgrass for biofuels] by using alternative breeding methods. Zulfi Jahufer is a senior research scientist in genetics and plant breeding at the AgResearch Grasslands Research Centre in Palmerston North in New Zealand, and was a co-researcher with Casler.

But achieving their goals isn’t easy. The ideal switchgrass wouldn’t possess one trait, but many. It would have a high amount of biomass per acre and be able to produce a lot of ethanol. It would also have low levels of lignin, a material found inside plants that prevents maximum ethanol production…

When the ideal plant would contain more than one important trait, it’s inefficient to select for them one at a time. To combat this issue, and breed switchgrass that has the optimal combination of these traits, the researchers tried evaluating plants using the Smith-Hazel Selection Index.

This index allowed the researchers to estimate and combine information on multiple traits. It also looked at the economic value of each trait, which further maximizes the rating.

The researchers say the next step needed to meet their goals is to use the protocols in an actual breeding program. They will begin to employ the best selection indices over the next few generations to obtain a more ideal switchgrass.

This research was recently published in the journal Crop Science.

ACE Opens August Conference Registration

ACElogoRegistration for the American Coalition’s for Ethanol’s (ACE) conference has opened, with “Quiet Ingenuity, Bold Advance” the theme for the Aug. 19-21 event. This news release from the group says it’s the 28th annual gathering for ACE and will be held in Omaha, Nebraska.

“One of the best kept secrets of the ethanol industry is how producers are boldly innovating, developing new co-products, and finding ways to improve their bottom line without fanfare. This is an important time for the industry and pivotal topics will take center stage at our upcoming conference,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings.

One panel discussion which will reinforce the “Quiet Ingenuity, Bold Advance” theme features Ray Defenbaugh, President, CEO & Chairman of Big River Resources LLC, Delayne Johnson, CEO of Quad County Corn Processors, and Jeff Oestmann, President & CEO of East Kansas Agri-Energy, LLC who will discuss the technology and advanced biofuel innovations their respective companies are pursuing.

Quad County Corn Processors is the first ethanol plant in the nation to produce both conventional and cellulosic biofuel, East Kansas Agri-Energy is constructing a renewable diesel facility adjacent to its existing corn ethanol plant, and Big River Resources will be producing a zein protein alongside its ethanol plant in Galva, IL.

There will also be a retailer panel on E15 and flex fuel sales, a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on fueling infrastructure, exports of ethanol and DDGs, plant board member training, and much more at this year’s conference. Registration information is here.

Winner of American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogen

Winner American Ethanol 200The winner of the 2015 American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen is Erik Jones. This is his fifth victory in 26 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races and first in 2015.

The photo is Erik’s team along with the folks from Syngenta/Enogen. The winner’s circle is THE place to be! In my photo album I’ve got over 300 photos from today’s activities that I hope you will enjoy and share.

It has been a long day so I’m calling it quits now. However, expect to see and hear more from Iowa Speedway this coming week. I have a number of interviews to share that I think you will enjoy.

2015 American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogen Photo Album

Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 sponsored by Enogen
Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 is sponsored by Enogen

Enogen Press Conference at Iowa Speedway

Engine Press ConferenceToday Syngenta announced a major donation to the Prime the Pump fund, an industry initiative to help early retail adopters of high-level ethanol blends through grants to reduce their initial investment in infrastructure. On the pane (l-r) are Chris Tingle, Syngenta; Ray Defenbaugh, Prime the Pump; Kelly Manning, Growth Energy; Delayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors and Chris Soule, Iowa farmer and star of ABC’s The Bachelor and Dancing With the Stars.

Syngenta says it will donate approximately $600,000 to the initiative by contributing $1 for every acre planted with Enogen corn enzyme technology. This effort stated in 2013 and is being extended to 2016. Besides the money being raised for the Prime the Pump initiative, the FFA students here today helping collect money for the fund will be receiving matching dollars for the money they raise. So, when you look at the value to the ethanol plants of Enogen corn which already has a vital enzyme for processing which saves the plant money; the fact that farmers growing Enogen corn are receiving a significant bonus incentive on the price of their corn; the fact that this initiative is helping expand the market and use of ethanol and local FFA chapters are benefitting, it seems like a win-win for everyone.

I have recorded the full press conference for you to listen to here: Syngenta Enogen Press Conference

2015 American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogen Photo Album

Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 sponsored by Enogen
Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 is sponsored by Enogen

American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogen

Syngenta Enogen FFAIt’s NASCAR race time with the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen. I’m on location at Iowa Speedway and the race is tonight. Right now we’re in a lull between practice sessions. I’m here courtesy of Syngenta Enogen and will be covering their events.

One of this things is the effort Syngenta is doing with Iowa FFA members again this year. They are raising money and awareness for flex fuels and FFA benefits too.

Money raised for flex fuel infrastructure by FFA members at the Iowa Speedway on race day will be matched by Syngenta, with a portion of the proceeds going to participating FFA chapters. “Engaging the public about ethanol and renewable fuels is a good opportunity for my students,” said Miranda Johnson, advisor of the Twin Cedars FFA Chapter. “They are the future and they understand the importance of conservation and preservation of our land and resources – and the vital role farmers play in feeding and fueling our country.”

I’ll be until the winner’s circle tonight so keep an eye on photos. I’m collecting photos from today’s activities here: 2015 American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogen Photo Album

Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 sponsored by Enogen
Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 is sponsored by Enogen