Secy Vilsack: Continue to Tout Biofuel Benefits

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, spent the morning back in his home state of Iowa (Vilsack is a former Iowa Governor) to kick off the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit. He began his remarks by saying its great to be back in Iowa and great to be back in front of folks who understand the importance of the renewable fuels industry. He also mentioned he is proud of the work the USDA has done to help expand the industry.

The key focus on his speech was the amount of people, both consumers and legislators, who don’t see the benefits of this industry the way we see them, who are attacking the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in the courts, and attacking the Renewable Fuel Standard in the halls of Congress. “But we continue to point out to those who oppose this industry, the benefits of the country.”USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack during 10th Annual Iowa Summit

For example, the ethanol industry has helped reduce the price of gas at the pump, even as gas prices go down, and given consumers choice at the pump. He also noted biofuels benefit the farm and rural communities, and help to reduce the trade deficit.

Vilsack discussed several of the programs the USDA has implemented to help grow and improve the industry including the Biomass Assistance Program, Biomass Research Centers and Loan Guarantees. But he said he was most excited of the new markets that are being developed. He also highlighted the Farms to Fly program that is looking at producing renewable biofuels for the aviation and shipping industry as well as biofuels for our military.

We need consumers to understand that every time they go to the pump, they are helping the industry. He also stressed the importance of the blender pump program and continuing to bring more mid-level blends to consumers.

In closing, Vilsack said expanding the renewable fuels industry is more than just the benefits (choice at pump, environment, national security, etc.). “It’s really about preserving the value system of rural America. This is an industry that allows us the process of diversifying the opportunities in rural America, to support production agriculture, to expand the biobased economy…so that we have more stable farm income and we give people opportunities to live, work and raise their families in rural areas. That is important to me.”

Listen to USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack’s full remarks: Vilsack Remarks During IRFA Summit

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

IRFA’s Shaw: We Will Not Retreat

“Today, Iowa’s renewable fuels industry – the entire renewable fuels industry quite frankly – is at a fork in the road. We must decide whether to retreat, or whether to fight for victory. I know we will not retreat. It is simply not in the farmers DNA. So we fight,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) during the opening session of the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit referring to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This legislation, said Shaw, is the key to long-term success of renewable fuels.

IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw“I know the renewable fuels industry will not waiver or retreat or surrender,” said Shaw. “It will continue to battle for market access and to tear down the bogus ‘blend wall.’ I know this because the renewable fuels industry has fought the odds for 35 years – and won.”

He continued, “Keeping the RFS intact is key to near term biodiesel growth, the ability for cellulosic ethanol to have a chance to develop, and to pulling corn ethanol above 15 billion gallons per year. When the RFS finally breaches the artificial blend wall and major markets add the distribution infrastructure necessary for E15, ethanol use won’t increase by just that prescribed amount. Once the hole is in the dam, the octane value of corn ethanol will burst through – pulled by the RFS just as certainly as cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel.”

He also noted there is not a consensus to repeal nor modify the RFS in D.C. Do buy in to the narrative and choose the path of retreat because Big Oil is trying to win, he added.

To view Shaw’s selected prepared remarks, click here.

Why Chris Soules Supports Ethanol

Chris Soules at Iowa NASCAR race 2016

Iowa farmer Chris Soules speaks with race fans about ethanol during the Iowa Iowa NASCAR race last summer.

Iowa native and farmer Chris Soules rose to fame as The Bachelor and his participation in Dancing With The Stars. He has since used his status to spread positive messages about biofuels including ethanol. I spoke with Chris recently to learn why biofuels are so important to him and why he has leveraged his notoriety in partnerships with several ag and biofuel organizations to be a national face and voice for agribusiness.

Q: Was one of the reasons you went on The Bachelor to create a platform to talk about agriculture to consumers?

A: I went on show to hopefully meet someone. However, since then I’ve realized that I have interesting, positive experiences, in particular about being a farmer, that I want to share. I’m thankful that I have been able to work with organizations such as Growth Energy who have given me the opportunity to share my stories about how farmers work every day to provide food and fuel to consumers across the country.

Q: Of all of the issues you can champion, why biofuels?

A: Biofuels are an important way to help America diversify its fuel choices and move away from foreign oil. It’s also a clean burning fuel as compared to gas, so not only is it a good economic choice, but the consumer is also helping the environment at the same time.

Q: Do you use biofuels (biodiesel or ethanol) on your family farm? Do you grow crops for biofuels?

A: Yes, on our farm we use both ethanol and biodiesel. We also grow the crops, corn and soybeans, that are used to produce the biofuels.

Q: How will your farm be affected if the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) doesn’t continue to ramp up?

A: My family began to lose demand for our products resulting in lower prices. It would also end up costing jobs in rural areas. When biofuels were identified as a way to diversify our fuel supply and bring jobs back to rural America, demand for our product rose. So if the RFS doesn’t move forward, demand will drop again hurting not only our family’s livelihood and family farms across the country, but millions in the Midwest who rely on ag-based jobs and a thriving ag community.

*Note, while final volumes for renewable fuels under the RFS were increased for 2104, 2015 and 2016 at the end of last year, they are still not at mandated levels leaving the RFS in jeopardy.

Q: Do you plan on continuing your public awareness efforts around biofuels in 2016?

A: Yes. Biofuels are very important to me and my family, and the nation’s energy security. That is why I an proud to help raise awareness of the importance of biofuels and the RFS.

Biofuel Industry’s United Stand

The biofuel industry continues to maintain its united front on encouraging legislative support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) especially during the presidential campaigns. Leaders from the renewable fuels and agriculture community released a public letter to allies outlining their support for America’s Renewable Future (ARF) to protect the RFS.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.11.31 PMThe letter urges Iowa voters to turn to ARF to know where candidates stand on the RFS. It also designates the organization as the definitive voice on the issue. This letter comes as Sen. Ted Cruz has been under fire for his confusing stance on ethanol and the RFS. In a statement from ARF, they said they are committed to continuing let Iowans know that despite his change in tone, Cruz is still anti-RFS and he will destroy Iowa’s agriculture economy and Iowa farmers.

The letter was signed by the following leaders: Tom Buis, CEO – Growth Energy; Bob Hemesath, President – Iowa Corn Growers Association; Tom Brooks, President – Iowa Renewable Fuels Association; Jeff Broin, CEO – POET Biorefining; Bob Dineen, President & CEO – Renewable Fuels Association; Wayne Fredricks, President – Iowa Soybean Association; Joe Hrdlicka, Executive Director – Iowa Biotech Association; Grant Kimberly, Executive Director – Iowa Biodiesel Board; Will Rogers, Director of Government Affairs – Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers; Bruce Rastetter, CEO – Summit Agricultural Group; and Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President – American Coalition for Ethanol.

Abigail Fisler Wins NEC Scholarship

Abigail FislerAbigail Fisler, a junior at Dickinson College in Carlislie, PA, has been awarded a student scholarship to attend the 21st Annual National Ethanol Conference (NEC) in February in New Orleans. The scholarship, awarded by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the Renewable Fuels Foundation, (RFF) provides a student studying renewable fuels with complimentary registration and an opportunity to network with industry members.

Abigail is pursuing two bachelor’s degrees in environmental studies — with a focus on renewable energy and climate change — and Italian studies, respectively. She was introduced to biofuels at a young age during a fourth-grade field trip to an ethanol plant in Lakota, Iowa. Last summer, she worked as an intern for California Ethanol and Power, where she assisted with investor presentations, developing marketing materials, and providing business plan updates. This summer Abagail intends to gain additional experience in the areas of sustainable energy and policy development. She ultimately plans to work globally in the field due to her affinity for foreign languages and cultures.

“On behalf of the RFA and RFF, I am proud to hand this year’s scholarship to a talented student with a promising career in the renewable fuels industry ahead of her,” said Mike Jerke, chairman of the RFF and CEO of Guardian Energy. “Abigail’s deep resume at such a young age is a testament to her commitment to energy in the 21st century, and the NEC is the perfect place for her to extend that background further. This scholarship will provide Abigail with exclusive access to the best in the industry who will deliver insight into the important issues facing the ethanol industry.”

The National Ethanol Conference will take place Feb. 15–17 at the New Orleans Hyatt Regency. Click here for more information and to register.

Groups Sue EPA Over RFS

A coalition has sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over the final rules of the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014, 2015 and 2016 that were finalized near the end of last year. The current levels for fuels do not meet legislative mandates for those years regardless of the fact that the biofuels industry has shown they can meet fuel volumes.

rfs-mess-2A group that consists of seven industry associations including BIO, Americans for Clean Energy, American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Growth Energy, National Corn Growers Association, the National Sorghum Producers, filed the suit on Friday, January 8, 2016 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Case 16-1005).

According to a group statement, among other things, the petitioners intend to demonstrate that EPA’s interpretation of its general waiver authority is contrary to the statute. By focusing on fuel distribution capacity and demand rather than supply, and by failing to consider surplus RINs from prior years, the Agency erroneously concluded that there was an inadequate supply of renewable fuel to justify a waiver of the levels established by Congress. The petitioners also plan to point out other fundamental flaws and inconsistencies in the government’s rule.

A preliminary, non-binding listing of issues to be raised in the court of appeals will be filed by February 11. The statement concluded, “The petitioners look forward to presenting their arguments to the court of appeals to provide clarity and certainty to market participants concerning the requirements of the statute.”

IA’s Biofuels Industries Could Help Biochem Industry

ia-flag1The lessons Iowa has learned in making ethanol and biodiesel could serve the state well in an effort to make bio-based chemicals. This article from the Des Moines Register says, though, a new report indicates a state tax credit is needed to help the Hawkeye state take a slice of the country’s $250 billion chemical market with greener replacements.

“If you are not there at the nucleation, you can be left at the sideline and not be part of it,” Brent Shanks, one of the report’s authors, said during a news conference Thursday.

Shanks and two other Iowa State University professors wrote the report. The Iowa Biotechnology Association and the Cultivation Corridor, a regional effort to bring more bioscience companies to central Iowa, commissioned it…

The biotech association, Cultivation Corridor and other business groups, are pushing for a state tax incentive meant to spur the production of bio-based chemicals.

They have argued that Iowa needs to take advantage of its position before other states catch on. Many also were disappointed similar legislation did not receive enough support to pass last year.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad called for a revenue-neutral bio-renewable tax credit in his Condition of the State address this week.

The article goes on to say Iowa’s massive ethanol, biodiesel and other bio-processing infrastructure gives the state an advantage over other states to start growing a bio-based chemical production industry. Proponents of the tax incentive point out that similar tax incentives in biodiesel and ethanol helped those industries grow so well in Iowa.

Corn, LP Joins Growth Energy

Corn, LP has joined Growth Energy, an organization comprised of the ethanol industry and biofuel supporters. Corn, LP is located in Goldfield, Iowa and has a nameplate production capacity of 60 million gallons per year.

growth-energy-logo1“We are excited that Corn, LP has joined the Growth Energy team,” said Growth Energy co-chairman Tom Buis. “Corn, LP is an outstanding plant that provides a great market for corn growers in the heart of Iowa and produces highly nutritious animal feed for the region. Corn, LP also creates good jobs that cannot be outsourced, improves our environment and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.”

Corn LP logoDr. John Gazaway, President of Corn, LP, commended the partnership, saying, “By joining Growth Energy, we will be able to further our mission of adding value to locally grown grains and benefitting our community through economic growth. We are also proud to support Growth Energy’s efforts to ensure a strong future for our industry.”

EPA Study on Vehicle Emissions Raises Questions

A new study has raised questions about the veracity of the U.S Environmental Protection Agencies vehicle emissions modeling system. The third party report found it to be an inadequate and unreliable tool for estimating the exhaust of emissions of gasoline blends containing more than 10 percent ethanol. The evaluation of EPA’s latest Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES2014) model was conducted by scientists from Wyle Laboratories, Inc., and Volpe (part of the U.S. Department of Transportation), and commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Foundation.

rfalogo1“Overall, it was found that the predictive emissions results generated by MOVES2014 for mid-level ethanol blends were sometimes inconsistent with other emissions results from the scientific literature for both exhaust emissions and evaporative emissions,” according to the study. “…results and trends from MOVES2014 for certain pollutants are often contrary to the findings of other studies and reports in the literature.”

The study found that the MOVES2014 model predicts increased exhaust emissions of nitrogen components and particulate matter as the ethanol content in gasoline increases, even though real-world emissions testing based on mid-level ethanol blends has shown distinctly opposite trends. “The results from other researchers often show ethanol-related emissions trends that are different than the MOVES2014 results obtained for this study…” the study found. “In some cases not only were magnitudes different but different [directional] trends were presented.”

The study’s authors suggest the MOVES2014 model’s questionable predictions for certain emissions likely result from the use of data that misrepresents the actual parameters and composition of mid-level ethanol blends. Specifically, the default ethanol blend data in the model is based on arcane “match blending” methods intended to “match” specific fuel parameters, rather than “splash blending” methods that are used in the real world. According to the study, “…real-world splash blends may not have the same attributes as the modeled default match blends used in MOVES, and actual emissions may be different than the emissions predictions from MOVES.”

In an attempt to simulate the emissions of mid-level ethanol blends created using real-world “splash blending” practices, the Wyle and Volpe scientists performed an analysis where certain fuel parameters were modified. However, the model still produced questionable results that suggested increases in emissions of nitrogen components and PM as ethanol content increases.

To correct the deficiencies with the MOVES2014 model, the authors recommend obtaining new mid-level ethanol blend emissions data using blends that better represent real-world fuel properties and blending practices. They write that “…additional vehicle exhaust testing from mid-level ethanol blends with well-defined fuel properties is recommended.”

Renewable Fuels Marketing Awards Presented

Darin Schlapia from Farmers Cooperative Company based in Afton, Iowa and Kevin DeGoey from New Century FS in Grinnell, Iowa have won the Secretary’s Biodiesel and Ethanol Marketing Awards by Iowa Secretary of Ag Bill Northey. The awards honor fuel marketers who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to promote and sell renewable fuels including ethanol and biodiesel. Activities include hosting special events such as pump promos, creative signage, and innovative marketing campaigns.

Schlapia, DeGoey“New Century FS and Farmers Cooperative Company have made expanding access to renewable fuels a priority and invested in the infrastructure necessary to make variety of biodiesel and ethanol available to their customers. On top of that, they have worked hard to promote these home-grown fuels and educate their customers about the benefits,” Northey said.

The winners were announced and recognized during the Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores of Iowa Annual Meeting in Des Moines on Jan. 12th.

Northey added, “Fuel marketers are the place where customers access the home-grown, clean-burning renewable fuels we produce here in Iowa. Our state is fortunate to have many retailers that have made a significant investment to give customers greater access to renewable fuels and more choice at the pump.”

Kevin DeGoey, the Energy Department Manager for New Century FS in Grinnell is winner of the 2016 Secretary’s Ethanol Marketing Award. New Century FS offers higher ethanol blends at their sites in Grinnell and Vinton and are working to add additional ethanol blender pumps as part of the Iowa USDA Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership program. They were an early adopter of registered E15 and are now one of 40 locations statewide offering this higher blend to customers. In the second year that E15 was offered at their facility in Vinton sales jumped 93 percent and now account for 27 percent of the fuel sales at that site.

Darin Schlapia with Farmers Cooperative Company in Afton is the winner of the 2016 Secretary’s Biodiesel Marketing Award. Farmers Cooperative Company participated in the “Fueling our Future” pilot program to install one of the first biodiesel blender pumps in the state at their site in Mt. Ayr. That site offer offers #2 diesel, B11, B20, B30 and B99. As part of the “Fueling our Future” program, Schlapia and Farmers Cooperative Company worked with Iowa State University to evaluate consumer perceptions and the impact of increased assess to mid-level biofuels blending options, including impacts on improved air quality.