Ethanol Blends Save Drivers Money

aceAs drivers are hitting the road for the 4th of July weekend, they’ll be able to do so with a little extra jingle in their pockets, thanks to ethanol. This news release from the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) says gas prices are lower because of the green fuel.

“People are traveling more because gas prices are about a dollar a gallon less than last year,” says ACE Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty, “American drivers are paying $11 billion a month less at the pump. That’s almost $40 bucks a month for every man, woman and child in the U.S.”

Lamberty says ethanol production gains made possible by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) are a big help in lowering the price of gas.

“Ethanol costs less than gas, so adding ethanol lowers the price of gas,” Lamberty explained. “And when people can use more ethanol in fuels like E15 or E85, that’s more competition for gasoline. That forces oil companies to lower their prices to compete, and that’s why they badmouth ethanol and the RFS.”

Lamberty also warned that Big Oil is trying to get Congress and the EPA to eliminate or dramatically weaken laws that allow ethanol to compete with gasoline, and if petroleum interests are successful, we’ll all end up paying more.

Our Poll on RFS Changes Gets Mixed Results

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Will EPA change RFS volume proposal?”

The EPA recently released a new proposal for biofuels volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard – one that has made no one happy but particularly corn farmers and ethanol producers who note that the agency is not implementing the law as intended. EPA held a public hearing to get comments on the proposal but will it lead to a change? Half of those who took our recent poll believe that the EPA won’t change RFS volumes. Time will tell.

Here are the poll results:

  • No – 50%
  • Yes – 29%
  • Maybe – 21%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What’s on your grill this 4th of July?

Beyond fireworks, grilling seems to be a top priority when families and friends gather to celebrate Independence Day. July is also known as National Hot Dog Month. So, will you be joining the tradition by eating hot dogs on the 4th or will you be grilling up something else?

Ethanol Report on RFS Hearing and Rally

rfs-worksHundreds of ethanol supporters turned out for a rally and public hearing in Kansas City, Kansas last week on the EPA’s proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). In this edition of the Ethanol Report, we hear from some of those who attended.

ethanol-report-adThe report includes comments and testimony from Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) senior vice president Geoff Cooper, RFA chairman Randy Doyal of Al-Corn Clean Fuel in Minnesota, Jeff Oestmann of East Kansas Agri-Energy and Chris Grundler, Director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

Listen to or download the Ethanol Report here: Ethanol Report from EPA RFS Hearing and Rally

Pacific Ethanol, Aventine Finalize Merger

pacethanolPacific Ethanol and Aventine have completed their merger. This Pacific Ethanol news release says the merger will make a large impact for both companies and their customers.

Neil Koehler, the company’s president and CEO, stated: “We are pleased to complete this transformative acquisition, establishing Pacific Ethanol as the sixth largest producer of ethanol in the United States. In addition to more than doubling our ethanol production capacity, this synergistic transaction expands our geographic footprint, leverages our existing infrastructure to reach new markets and customers and enhances our overall scale and co-product diversification. We look forward to working with the Aventine employees to achieve a smooth integration and accelerate the growth of our combined company.”

Per the terms of the definitive merger agreement, Aventine stockholders received 1.25 shares of Pacific Ethanol common stock for each share of Aventine common stock owned at closing. As a result, Pacific Ethanol issued approximately 17.76 million shares in the merger, resulting in 42.5 million total shares outstanding as of July 1, 2015. Aventine had term debt of approximately $145 million as of July 1, 2015. Pacific Ethanol will provide information regarding capital plans and synergies when it releases its second quarter 2015 financial results anticipated in late July 2015.

Aventine brings a 100 million gallon per year wet mill and 60 million gallon per year ethanol dry mill located in Pekin, Illinois, and its 110 million gallon per year and 45 million gallon per year dry mills in Aurora, Nebraska, to the deal. Combined with Pacific Ethanol’s current ethanol production capacity of 200 million gallons per year, the combined company will have a total ethanol production capacity of 515 million gallons per year and, together with Pacific Ethanol’s marketing business, is expected to sell over 800 million gallons of ethanol annually.

Despite Fewer Acres, Plenty of Corn for Ethanol

NCGA-Logo-3The number of acres corn planted is down this year. But the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) says there’s plenty of the crop for ethanol and all the other uses from the grain. Citing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Acreage report, NCGA says total corn planting in the United States totals 88.9 million acres, the lowest planted acreage since 2010 but the sixth-largest U.S. corn acreage planted since 1944.

“Corn farmers produced an abundance in 2014 that resulted in a large carry over into this year,” National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling said. “While planted acreage has decreased as farmers in many parts of the country face unrelentingly wet conditions, U.S. farmers have steadily increased our ability to grow more corn on every acre. Americans can rest assured that we will be able to meet all needs, be they for food, fuel or fiber, for years to come.”

USDA projects 13.5 billion acres of corn to be harvested this fall.

Citizen Testimony at EPA RFS Hearing

epa-hearing-austinOf the more than 240 stakeholders who testified at the EPA hearing last week on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), at least 35 were citizens who spoke about why they felt it was important for our nation to continuing increasing the use of biofuels.

One of those was Austin Ludowese (pictured far left) of Stewart, Minnesota, who was raised on a family farm and is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout majoring in business administration. “I was here representing a lot of young farmers who have the desire to come back to the farm,” said Ludowese who told EPA how the RFS encouraging ethanol production has helped his small community.

Ludowese says he was encouraged by the turnout at the hearing. “It really is overwhelming to see all the different supporters come from all the different areas, whether it’s an ethanol plant or just a simple farmer,” he said. “It’s a lot of the same message just expressed in different ways.”

He added that he does believe the EPA is listening and paying attention to what the stakeholders have to say about the RFS.

Interview with EPA hearing witness Austin Ludowese

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing is sponsored by
Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing sponsored by RFA

EPA’s Grundler Visits #RFSWorks Rally

rfs-rally-grundlerThe EPA official in charge of last week’s hearing on proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) proved to be open and engaged and truly interested in listening to what stakeholders had to say about the proposal.

Chris Grundler, EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality Director, even left the hearing for a time and walked down the street to listen at the #RFSWorks rally and spend some time talking one on one with those in attendance, including Renewable Fuels Association chairman Randy Doyal.

In his opening statement, Grundler said EPA set the volume levels lower than the RFS statute requires because the law allows reductions under certain circumstances. “We believe those circumstances are upon us,” he said, noting specifically the fact that cellulosic biofuel has not come on line as fast as hoped. “Simply setting the standards at the levels targeted by Congress and trusting this will sufficiently incentivize the market to achieve the mandates … would be irresponsible.”

At the same time, Grundler acknowledged that the statutory volume targets “were intended to be ambitious” and EPA believes the standards they have proposed for 2014, 2015 and 2016 are “ambitious but within reach of the responsive marketplace.”

Grundler listened attentively to testimony presented by stakeholders at the hearing and also encouraged written comments to be sent in to the agency by July 27.

Listen to Grundler’s opening remarks here: EPA's Chris Grundler remarks at RFS hearing

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing is sponsored by
Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing sponsored by RFA

Prime the Pump Funds Ethanol Infrastructure

syngenta-enogen-nascar-15-defenbaughThe chairman of the Prime the Pump fund says getting more fuel infrastructure in the marketplace is vital to getting higher level ethanol blends to consumers.

“It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg,” says Ray Defenbaugh of Big River Resources in West Burlington, Iowa. “The autos hold off because of the pumps, pumps hold off because of the retailers, because of the autos.”

Defenbaugh says government programs are nice, but it’s really important for the industry to help early retail adopters of high-level ethanol blends through grants to reduce their initial investment in infrastructure. “This is a self-help effort by not only the ethanol industry, but people who benefit from the ethanol industry.”

Syngenta announced a major donation to Prime the Pump at the recent NASCAR American Ethanol 200 in Iowa, which Defenbaugh was pleased to accept from Chris Tingle with Syngenta Enogen. “Syngenta contributed a nice check – $225,000 for the effort, and they’ll have two more installments,” said Defenbaugh. The company will be contributing $1 for every acre planted with Enogen corn enzyme technology, which they expect to ultimately total about $600,000.

Listen to Ray explain more about Prime the Pump in this interview: Interview with Prime the Pump chair Ray Defenbaugh

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

EPA Hearing Turnout to Show #RFSWorks

The public hearing in Kansas City, Kansas last week on EPA’s proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard was a who’s who of the biofuels industry and then some.

epa-hearing-panelA total of 254 people on 43 panels testified in two different rooms for about seven and a half hours. It was over twice as many people who testified at a public hearing in Arlington, Virginia in December 2013 on EPA’s first proposed RVO for 2014 that was ultimately withdrawn.

The vast majority of those testifying at the hearing were biofuels supporters, less than a dozen represented the oil industry or others opposed to increasing use of biofuels. Ethanol and biodiesel producers, corn growers, agribusiness interests and fuel retailers from across the nation testified, in addition to several state lawmakers, two governors and their agriculture secretaries.

The very first panel consisted of representatives from the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, American Soybean Association, National Farmers Union, National Biodiesel Board and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

RFA senior vice president Geoff Cooper urged the agency to implement the statute as Congress intended and abandon its blend wall methodology in setting the 2014–2016 renewable volume obligations.

“We continue to believe EPA is overstepping the bounds of its legal authority by proposing to partially waive the RFS based on perceived distribution capacity constraints,” Cooper said. “Nothing in the statute allows EPA to set the renewable volume obligations (RVOs) based on the so-called ‘blend wall’ or alleged infrastructure limitations. Congress considered measures that would have allowed waivers based on distribution infrastructure. But they rejected those concepts because they knew allowing such off-ramps would allow oil companies to hold the RFS program hostage.”

Listen to Cooper and others on the first panel here: EPA RFS Hearing panel 1

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing is sponsored by
Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing sponsored by RFA

Retailers Counter EPA Blend Wall Beliefs

Many fuel retailers were on hand at the EPA public hearing last week on volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to tell their stories about selling higher ethanol blends.

epa-hearing-retailerAmong those who testified at the hearing and also spoke at the #RFSWorks rally was Cheryl Near, who owns Jump Start gas station in Wichita, Kansas with her husband Phil. The couple is featured in the movie PUMP, a documentary about America’s addiction to oil and the monopoly of the oil companies that works to prevent consumer choice at the pump.

“We need to be supporting homegrown renewables, we need be blending more ethanol into our fuel supply, not less,” said Near at the rally, who added that oil companies are controlling the price of higher ethanol blends. “We need blender pumps, we need to buy direct from the ethanol plants, and then we can pass our savings on to the consumers.”

Listen to Near’s rally comments here: Fuel retailer Cheryl Near at RFS Rally

Other retailers who testified at the hearing included Scott Zaremba, owner of Zarco USA, and Charlie Good, owner of Good and Quick convenience store in Nevada, Iowa. “We have seen our ethanol sales numbers increase as we educate the public on the higher ethanol blends,” said Zaremba, who was the first retailer to offer E15 in the United States. “Renewable blends make up 98% of my gasoline sales mix, and almost 30% of the fuel I sell is in renewable blends above ten percent,” added Good.

Dave Sovereign, owner and operator of the Cresco Fast Stop, summarized the thoughts of many retailers, telling EPA, “When consumers have a choice, there is no blend wall.”

Other stories of higher blend fuel retailers can be found on the American Coalition for Ethanol website Flexfuelforward.com.

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing is sponsored by
Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing sponsored by RFA