USDA Secretary Visits #RFANEC Again

nec16-vilsack-bobAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the National Ethanol Conference for the last time in the position he has held under President Obama for both terms.

During his appearance, Vilsack announced some good news for the ethanol industry – new research showing significant improvement in ethanol production efficiency.

“This study we just published today looks at the ratio of the energy used to produce a gallon of ethanol and the energy that it creates, and the ratio has improved significantly,” said Vilsack.

According to the study, between 1991 and 2010, direct energy use in corn production has dropped by 46 percent per bushel of corn produced and total energy use per bushel of corn by 35 percent. Moreover, between 2005 and 2010, direct energy use fell by 25 percent and the total energy use by 8.2 percent per bushel—meaning that between 2005 and 2010, the energy required per bushel of corn produced dropped by about 5 percent.

“The bottom line is, today, more energy is being produced from ethanol than is used to produce it, by factors of 2 to 1 nationally and by factors of 4 to 1 in the Midwest. There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of the bio-economy and the role biofuels and advanced biofuels will play in that future, and I am confident this administration has acted aggressively to expand the groundwork to support that brighter future,” Vilsack said.

Listen to Vilsack’s address to the NEC here: USDA Secretary Vilsack at NEC16

Vilsack answers press questions on Cuba, FFVs, ethanol efficiency and more – Sec'y Vilsack NEC press avail

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

Former Oil Company President at #RFANEC

The former president of a big oil company was very critical of the oil industry during his keynote address at the 2016 National Ethanol Conference in New Orleans Tuesday.

nec16-hofmeisterJohn Hofmeister was president of Shell Oil Company for three years, but after he left the company in 2008 he founded Citizens for Affordable Energy and wrote a book called “Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an energy insider.” Straight talk was definitely what Hofmeister shared with attendees at the NEC.

“Oil is a contrived market,” Hofmeister began, talking about the current state of low oil prices and how Iran and Russia are impacting the situation with Saudi Arabia. “This is a contrived situation that has been created because of geopolitical considerations…and which can’t last very much longer.”

“What does this have to do with ethanol?” he asked. “I think it has everything to do with the United States’ absolute requirement to become fully energy independent to not be the victim of a contrived oil market.”

Hofmeister questioned why the United States imports seven million barrels of oil a day instead of developing “the alternative fuels we have in this country that can dismiss any dependency on foreign oil forever.”

Listen to Hofmeister’s insights here: John Hofmeister NEC16 Keynote Address

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

State of the Ethanol Industry at #RFANEC

Bob DinneenThis morning at the National Ethanol Conference, Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association, gave his annual State of the Ethanol Industry Speech in front of over 1,000 attendees. He said that the domestic ethanol industry remains strong and touted its ability to successfully navigate the vagaries of the markets and overcome the perils of policy uncertainty.

“The strength of the U.S. ethanol industry is seen in its record production – 14.7 billion gallons, its record blending demand – 13.75 billion gallons, record feed production – 40 million metric tons, and record greenhouse gas reductions – 41.2 metric tons,” said Dinneen. “Those aren’t the stats of an industry in retreat, that’s an industry confident, defiant, and prepared to weather any storm.”

Dinneen called the U.S. ethanol industry the “cornerstone” of the rural economy, noting that it added $44 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product and paid $10 billion in taxes last year. He drew a sharp contrast with what he characterized as the “boom and bust cycles” of oil extraction which, he said, can wreak havoc on economically-vulnerable communities.

You can read his full speech here.

You can listen to Bob’s speech here:

Speech on State of Ethanol Industry - Bob Dinneen, RFA

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Preview of National Ethanol Conference

Bob DinneenThe Reverend of Renewable Energy, Mr. Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association, in traditional fashion, provides us with a preview of the 21st National Ethanol Conference. The Conference kicked off this morning at English Turn Golf & Country Club with the annual NEC tournament. The weather threatened but held off for a beautiful day.

Bob says the agenda includes some great speakers including John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil Company and Founder/CEO, Citizens for Affordable Energy and our U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. It’s a very political year which he says is going to keep things interesting. In fact, we will also hear from Mike Murphy, Political Analyst, NBC News and Paul Begala, Political Analyst, CNN. That might even be entertaining.

Bob says that after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia the whole tone in Washington, DC changed. Between that tragedy and a shortened Congressional season due to the political conventions it will make it very hard for much action to be taken.

Here at the conference Bob says he wants to encourage members to look ahead, find and build new markets, feel proud of their industry. We’re also going to have a session on how to communicate with the consumers of today.

You can listen to my interview with Bob here: Interview with Bob Dinneen, RFA

EPA Chief Defends #RFS Decisions

house-mccarthyDuring a hearing on Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee members questioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, on many agency actions, including decisions made regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In her opening statement, McCarthy defended the volume obligation requirements under that RFS that EPA set last year, “The final requirements boost renewable fuel production and provide for robust, achievable growth of the biofuels industry,” McCarthy said. “The EPA took steps to improve the administration of the RFS program and continues to approve new agricultural feedstocks, increasing the number of pathways that biofuel producers may use to qualify their biofuel under the program.”

McCarthy was questioned heavily by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) about various aspects of the RFS decision making process, including whether EPA has the authority to abolish the blend wall. “These numbers actually push through the blend wall,” McCarthy answered. King then began to question her about approval to sell E15 year round, which McCarthy said it had, but she backed off when King noted the vapor pressure requirements that keep E15 from being sold in many markets during the summer months.

Listen to McCarthy’s testimony and some of the questioning by committee members here: House Ag Hearing with EPA Chief

Ethanol Cmte Looks at Cal’s Green Fuel Industry

ethanolcal1California has an ethanol industry that is growing in size and importance. That’s why members of the National Corn Growers Association’s Ethanol Committee went to Sacramento last week to meet with California regulators and ethanol industry representatives in this important market. This news release from NCGA says the meetings focused on existing market conditions, modeling to calculate greenhouse gas emissions and efforts being made to expand higher blends of ethanol at the retail level.

Anil Prabhu of the California Air Resources Board’s Transportation Fuel Branch in Sacramento discussed the history behind CARB’s carbon emissions scoring and the criteria contained in the current Low Carbon Fuel Standard. According to Prabhu, there is potential for improving the methodologies for the models CARB uses. The Ethanol Committee will continue to serve as a resource for CARB as they seek to improve their scoring methodologies.

“California’s low carbon fuels standard presents an excellent opportunity for higher ethanol fuel blends to perform well in this market,” said Ethanol Committee Chair Paul Jeschke. “Although there have been improvements made in the GHG number assigned to corn ethanol by CARB, corn farmers feel there is more work to be done in order for CARB to recognize the true benefits of corn ethanol under California’s LCFS Program.”

The committee also met with Tom Koehler of Pacific Ethanol and Rob Elam, CEO of Propel Fuels, to discuss the E85 marketing efforts these companies are using in California. Pacific Ethanol supplies ethanol to Propel Fuels which is the largest E85 retailer in California. Low carbon fuels are more affordable than gasoline in this market. However, only three percent of the available market is being served. The keys to Propel’s success in capturing 75 percent of the current E85 market are ownership and maintenance of E85 infrastructure, extensive analytics and aggressive marketing to Flex Fuel Vehicle owners. After the presentation, the committee visited a retail station in a high FFV volume area where Propel has a canopy with dedicated pumps for higher blends.

#RFS is a Top Issue for Ag Equipment Makers

nfms16-aem-panelThe Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) hosted an Ag Executive Outlook panel during the opening day of the 2016 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville this week and one of the top issues for the organization is maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

AEM’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Nick Yaksich says building demand is vital for the agriculture economy right now and that is why the RFS is important. “There’s great opportunities with corn ethanol and beyond,” he said. “There is a push from the oil industry to fight back and repeal that. So, top of our list is to maintain what the government has put into law.”

Industry executives on the panel with Yaksich included Todd Sutcke with Kubota, Leif Magnusson of CLAAS Global Sales Americas, Jim Walker with Case IH NAFTA, and Great Plains Manufacturing president Linda Salem who each gave their perspectives on industry issues including the RFS, government regulations and trade.

AEM stresses industry involvement in policy issues with the I Make America campaign, which is dedicated to advocating for policies that strengthen their industry and economic vitality. “The key is grassroots involvement by voting members,” said Yaksich. “We started the I Make America campaign to reach beyond the corporate CEOs.” The campaign is in its fourth year and is equipped with a mobile marketing tour featuring a video game component to reach different groups within companies.

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Nick Yaksich, AEM

December Ethanol Exports Surge

According to a blog from Geoff Cooper, senior vice president for the Renewable Fuel Association (RFA), U.S. ethanol exports did well in December 2015 with 81.7 million gallons (mg) of product exported, 39 percent higher than November 2015. Canada was the top destination receiving 21.3 mg followed by Oman (13.4 mg), China (10.6 mg), the Philippines (8.8 mg), and the Netherlands (8.8 mg). U.S. ethanol exports totaled 836 mg in 2015—identical to the 2014 final tally according to recent report from RFA that includes details on top export destinations, shifts in the marketplace, ethanol import volumes, the value of exports, and other key data regarding U.S. ethanol trade in 2015.

Monthly US Ethanol Exports and ImportsDenatured fuel ethanol exports totaled 50.3 mg in December, the highest monthly total of the year and up 57 percent from November. At 19.3 mg, Canada was again the leading importer of denatured product. December exports of undenatured fuel ethanol tallied at 28.6 mg, up 18 percent from November. The Philippines (8.8 mg), Brazil (6.4 mg), the Netherlands (4.5 mg), Belgium-Luxembourg (2.6 mg), and Mexico (2.2 mg) were the top five markets for undenatured product in December.

U.S. fuel ethanol imports fell to 9.4 mg in December, less than half of the November import volume. Total imports of fuel ethanol finished the year at 93.2 mg, up slightly from 2014. Brazil represented more than 99 percent of the December imports with the remaining imports coming from Germany.

Exports of U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product manufactured by dry mill ethanol plants increased slightly in December, with 988,356 metric tons (mt) of outbound shipments. That was up 5 percent from November, but still well below monthly export levels recorded from May through October. DDGS exports finished the year at 12.55 million mt, a new annual record.

China remained as the top market for U.S. DDGS exports in December, despite setting an 11-month low. China received 226,049 mt, down 20 percent from November and less than one-quarter of the DDGS volume imported as recently as July. However, other markets saw big increases including Mexico, South Korea, Canada, and Vietnam. For the full calendar year, China was the top market followed by Mexico.

Donnelly ‘Friend of Farmers’ for Support of Ethanol

in-corn-donnellyA U.S. senator’s support of ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard has garnered him the inaugural “Friend of Farmers” Award from the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Growers Association. This news release says Sen. Joe Donnelly was recognized for his unwavering support of Indiana farmers’ policy efforts.

The Friend of Farmers Award was established by ICGA’s Board of Directors and ISA’s Membership and Policy Committee to recognize a public official at the state, federal, or local level who advocates for agriculture.

“Senator Donnelly has been among the top supporters of ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard of anyone in Washington,” said Mike Nichols, a farmer from Spencer County and president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association. “At a time when big oil is funneling millions of dollars to kill this law that increased demand for the corn we grow, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and promotes rural economic development, Senator Donnelly has stood strong for Indiana corn farmers.”

Donnelly also led a charge in 2015 to roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

“When the EPA overstepped its authority by regulating farm fields and roadside ditches, Senator Donnelly was one of the first to stand up for farmers and introduce legislation to stop this overreach,” said Jeanette Merritt, a farmer from Peru and chair of ISA’s Membership & Policy Committee. “Regardless of party, Senator Donnelly has been a bipartisan leader for Indiana farmers.”

Donnelly says working on behalf of agriculture is one of the most important parts of his job.

“Hoosier farmers are growing the food and fiber that drive our economy, strengthen our local communities, and help feed the world. As I’ve always said, I’m the hired help and I’m committed to listening to Hoosier farmers and working together for commonsense, bipartisan solutions that promote agriculture,” said Donnelly. “I am honored to receive the inaugural Friend of Farmers award, and will continue working on behalf of all Hoosier farmers and our agriculture community.”