Absolute Energy Celebrates 10 Years

Absolute energy logoThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has congratulated Iowa ethanol producer Absolute Energy for celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The company was formed in early 2006 and began construction of its St. Ansgar, Iowa, ethanol plant in June 2006. Production began February 2008 with an initial production capacity of 100 million gallons per year, but grew over time to its current capacity of 125 million gallons per year. The ethanol plant also markets dried distillers grains and corn oil.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this milestone with member company Absolute Energy,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “U.S. ethanol is the lowest cost, highest octane source in the world and we are proud of their contribution to this industry. We look forward to celebrating more occasions with Absolute Energy.”

House Hearing Attacks #RFS

The House Oversight Subcommittees on Interior and Healthcare, Benefits and Administrative Rules held a joint hearing Wednesday to ostensibly examine the Renewable Fuel Standard but was basically an attack on the law.

hearing-grundlerEPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality Director Chris Grundler provided testimony at the hearing and attempted to explain the purpose and intent of the RFS, including what the agency can and cannot do under the law, to obviously unfriendly lawmakers who used the forum to bring up every argument against renewable fuels, from food versus fuel to the blend wall. Grundler repeatedly noted that the job of the EPA was to implement the law as Congress intended. “Introducing new fuels into the marketplace, especially cellulosic biofuels, is not an easy task,” said Grundler. “But that is the challenge Congress took on with the RFS program and we are committed to implementing the program … as Congress intended.”

hearing-tynerPurdue economics professor Dr. Wally Tyner was the lone voice on the panel supporting the benefits of the RFS, calling it one of the “appropriate and effective ways to move our economy towards lower GHG emissions.”

No one from the U.S. biofuels industry was invited to testify, which was distressing to the ethanol industry. “Unfortunately, the committee has stacked the witness list with oil company apologists intent upon undermining public support for this important program,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Why is the committee afraid to hear all sides of the debate?”

“Holding a hearing on the RFS without any biofuels stakeholders is unacceptable and defeats the very purpose of what this congressional committee is tasked to accomplish,” added Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “The lack of diversity of opinions on this panel exemplifies political theater designed to drive a false narrative and discredit the success of the RFS. Furthermore, one of the most vocal RFS critics on the witness list was a professor who has been funded by the American Petroleum Institute (API).” He was referring to John DeCicco, a research professor with the University of Michigan Energy Institute, who conducted an unfavorable study on the RFS last year funded by the American Petroleum Institute.

The subcommittees also heard anti-RFS testimony from ActionAid USA and The Heritage Foundation.

Trump and Cruz Rumble Over #Ethanol in Miami

debate-trump-cruzThe topic of ethanol came up in last week’s GOP debate in Miami, although it is unlikely to play a big role in the Florida primary this week.

During the debate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) boasted that he campaigned against ethanol in Iowa because he wants to cut the size of government programs. “When I went to Iowa and campaigned against ethanol mandates, everyone said that was political suicide,” said Cruz. “If we’re going to stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids you’ve got to be willing to take on the lobbyists…specifying these are the programs I will eliminate.”

Donald Trump responded that Cruz did a flip flop on ethanol in Iowa. “Ted did change his view and his stance on ethanol quite a bit at the end,” said Trump. “He did change his view in the hopes of doing well.”

Listen to the exchange here: Cruz and Trump debate ethanol in Miami

Cruz outlined his stand regarding ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard in a January 6 Des Moines Register editorial. He does advocate a “phase out the Renewable Fuel Standard” but at the same time Cruz says he will “vigorously enforce our antitrust laws to ensure that the oil-and-gas industry cannot block access to the market for ethanol producers.”

#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

China Leads in U.S. Ethanol Exports

According to Ann Lewis, research analyst with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), U.S. ethanol exports increased by 7 percent over December 2015 kicking off 2016 with a strong start. Using U.S. data, the increase marked a 14-month high with the industry shipping 87.1 million gallons (mg), with China taking the lead with a third of the market at 29.4 mg—rivaling the record of 32.6 mg to China last October.

During the same time frame, Canada received just 13.7 mg—the lowest volume of exports north of the border since October 2010. The United Arab Emirates (10.9 mg) and South Korea (10.4 mg) were other top markets in January. Brazil brought in a fairly sizable volume (6.6 mg) considering its recent absenteeism from the U.S. export picture. January’s robust exports equate to 1.05 billion gallons on an annualized basis.

Monthly US Exports Jan 2016Denatured fuel ethanol exports saw a 29 percent month-on-month increase to 65.0 mg in January. China grabbed 29.4 mg (45%) of that market, with Canada (12.2 mg, or 19%), the UAE (8.1 mg, or 12%) and South Korea (5.9 mg, or 9%). Lewis reports that January exports of undenatured ethanol for fuel use fell 29 percent from December to 20.2 mg. Brazil (6.6 mg) and South Korea (4.5 mg) received 55% of undenatured fuel exports, while the Philippines (2.9 mg), the UAE (2.8 mg), Mexico (2.2 mg) and Peru (1.1 mg) rounded out the list. Sales of undenatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage use crashed to the lowest level since February 2013, dipping 64 percent to 212,369 gallons. Similarly, denatured non-fuel use ethanol exports slumped 21 percent to 1.7 mg—the lowest volume in over a year. The U.S. kept exports of non-fuel product close to home with 78 percent of total shipping to Canada and 9 percent to Mexico.

The U.S. imported just a splash of ethanol for fuel use in January. Inbound shipments came from Canada (500 gallons) and the Netherlands (165 gallons). Given the paltry import figure, January U.S. net exports of 87.1 mg were the highest since the record month of December 2011.

January exports of U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGs) fell 19 percent from January to 800,580 metric tons (mt). DDGS exports to China tallied at 218,961 mt, representing a 3 percent decrease over December volumes but an increase in market share (27% of total U.S. exports vs. 23% in December). On a side note, these volumes were recorded despite the country opening an anti-dumping case against the U.S. for DDGs. Other export markets included Mexico at 195,669 mt, Ireland at 48,456 mt, Canada at 47,617 mt, Thailand at 46,838, Vietnam at 45,744 mt and South Korea at 45,046 mt.

RFA: Corn Ethanol Net Energy Improves

A new analysis from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) finds that the net energy balance of corn-based ethanol at dry mill ethanol plants averages between 2.6 to 2.8, a improvement over previous estimates. Recent estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), found net energy gains between 2.1 to 2.3. However, RFA says its analysis uses more current dry mill energy use data than the USDA study; thus, explaining why its net energy balances are more favorable.

rfalogo1The net energy balance is a ratio of how much energy is required to grow the corn and produce the ethanol, and then transport the fuel to end users. For example, a ratio of 2.8, means every BTU of energy invested in the process to make and deliver ethanol results in 2.8 BTUs of available energy to the end user. (BTU is the acronym for British Thermal Energy, a measurement for energy.)

In February 2016, USDA issued its updated net energy balance report on corn-based ethanol, finding “[t]here has been a large improvement in energy balance since 1995, and a small but positive improvement since 2008.” The previous USDA report, conducted in 2010, was based on 2008-era data and found that the balance was 1.9–2.3. RFA’s analysis found that USDA used the same 2008-era dry mill energy use estimates for both its 2010 and 2016 reports.

According to RFA’s own analysis, “[t]he energy balance of the top-performing quartile of biorefineries is in the range of 3.2–3.4, which approaches the USDA estimate of 4.0 for an ideally situated dry mill producing wet distillers grains.”

RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen commented, “As this new analysis shows, the U.S. ethanol industry has made tremendous efficiency gains in recent years. EPA should take note and update its lifecycle greenhouse gas modeling of corn-based ethanol under the renewable fuel standard to reflect these improvements. Today’s ethanol plants are achieving the levels of efficiency that EPA assumed wouldn’t occur until 2022.”

The RFA analysis used dry mill energy use data from two other widely respected findings to support its results — Mueller & Kwik (2013) and Christianson & Associates (2016).

#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

US Ethanol Production Sets Records

New records were set in 2015 for U.S. ethanol production and blending according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Last year ethanol production hit a record high of 14.81 billion gallons while refiners and blenders integrated a record 13.69 billion gallons into the U.S. gasoline supply. The industry’s monthly average output in December 2015 also crested the 1 million-barrel-per-day mark for the first time in history.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 8.30.41 PMData from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that output levels of corn ethanol were primarily responsible for a record generation of 14.83 billion Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) used by obligated parties to track compliance under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen said that while the numbers are impressive, the American ethanol industry is prepared to do more. Unfortunately, added Dinneen, mismanagement of the RFS program and the oil industry’s intransigence to adopt higher-level ethanol blends like E15 kept the ethanol industry from realizing its full potential. EPA set the 2015 blending obligation for renewable fuel at just 14.05 billion gallons, rather than the 15 billion gallon level established by Congress – an act that is being challenged in federal court.

“The U.S. ethanol industry had an incredible year in 2015, but the failure of the White House and EPA to enforce the RFS as designed by Congress means our nation missed a huge opportunity to provide consumers with even larger volumes of domestically produced, low-carbon, high-octane biofuels,” said Dinneen. “There is no doubt that the ethanol industry could have produced even more renewable fuel if the Administration had stood firm on implementation of the statutory RFS volumes, rather than caving to the oil industry’s ‘blend wall’ narrative.” Continue reading

Minnesota Biofuels Promotes E15 to Drivers

mn-bio-e15The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association (MBA) spent an hour Tuesday at a retail station in St. Paul rewarding drivers who fueled up with E15.

The association joined with a local radio station at St Paul’s Tobasi Stop Minnoco to educate drivers and present those who switched to E15 with prizes such as $25 in cash, passes to the Minnesota Zoo and Wild Mountain. The retail station is one of the newest in the Twin Cities to offer E15. There are currently 17 stations in the metro that offer E15.

MBA executive director Tim Rudnicki says the event is the third time MBA has partnered with KS95 FM to educate and increase awareness of the benefits of using E15. “This is the third consecutive month where we have gone to a station with KS95 to directly engage with drivers and educate them on the benefits of using E15. Drivers are interested in using a fuel that has a high octane, is cheaper than regular unleaded gas, better for the environment and beneficial to Minnesota’s economy,” said Rudnicki.

In 2015, a record 3.09 million gallons of E15 was sold in Minnesota, nearly 12 times the amount sold in 2014. The volume recorded in December last was 527,574 gallons, a new monthly record and represented the second straight month in 2015 when E15 monthly sales breached 500,000 gallons.

Auto Industry Veteran Joins RFA

A veteran auto industry specialist has joined the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) as the organization’s new Technical Director.

rfa-kingTracey King, who spent 17 years as a technical specialist with Chrysler, will serve as the RFA’s top liaison to the automakers and will focus on forging the path to future high octane fuels and optimized spark ignition engines.

Previously, King worked in research and development at both Nissan and General Motors and most recently she was with Haltermann Solutions, a manufacturer of test and reference fuels. She also has extensive experience with ASTM and other standards developing organizations.

“Tracey brings an unrivaled wealth of knowledge and experience to the RFA,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA President and CEO. “Tracey’s background in the automotive industry and experience in developing certification fuels position her well to help chart the course toward an ethanol-based high octane fuel that will improve engine efficiency and reduce emissions.”

King will be based in Detroit and will be part of RFA’s research and technical team. “I am excited to join the RFA staff and look forward to working closely with the membership, automakers, regulators, and other stakeholders to help define the future for ethanol and optimized engines,” King said. “RFA has always been viewed as an effective science-based advocate for ethanol, and I am eager to contribute to the advancement of the organization’s technical objectives.”