Senators Call for Increased RFS RVOs

This week Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and 17 others sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling for them to follow the congressional intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by increasing blending targets (Renewable Volume Obligations/RVO) for 2017. The biofuels industry praised the senators for their call to action and released a joint statement.

epa-150“We want to thank all 19 senators for highlighting the biofuel industry’s concerns with EPA incorrectly citing distribution infrastructure as a factor in setting the 2014–2016 blending targets, and urging the agency to reverse course for the 2017 rule by simply following congressional intent. That is the very heart of why we and other biofuel groups filed a lawsuit in January against EPA.

Getting the RFS back to the statutory levels congress intended is critical in moving our nation forward to energy independence by using cleaner burning, homegrown biofuels, like ethanol, which reduce harmful emissions and our reliance on foreign oil imports. As important, returning to the statutory levels intended by Congress will provide the necessary certainty producers need to move forward with critical business decisions.

Back in the fall of 2015, Administrator McCarthy addressed biofuels stakeholders, saying, ‘EPA is working hard to make sure that the Renewable Fuel Standard program is actually moving towards the levels that Congress intended.’ We are hopeful that the EPA will follow through on their commitment, releasing a rule that reflects this and eliminates the possibility of any distribution waivers.”

We appreciate the steadfast commitment of these senators to ensure the RFS is enacted as originally envisioned and encourage the EPA to heed the recommendations of these senators, to indeed get the RFS ‘back on track’ as the agency has promised.”

Greenbelt Explores Cuban Alt Energy Opportunities

Greenbelt Resources CEO Darren Eng recently took advantage of the new opportunities opening up between the United States and Cuba. He traveled to Havana, Cuba and while there met with several companies to discuss their exempt from embargo advanced modular technology that can produce products such as cellulosic biofuels and animal feed.

greenbelt_logo_smallEng met with a representative from the Center for Information Management and Energy Development (CUBAENERGIA), a company that provides, research-development and tech-innovation projects to companies across the country.  In addition, he met with representatives from Cubazucar, a branch of the Cuban sugar industry. During his visit Eng says he confirmed that sustainable energy development is a high priority for many major Cuban industries, in particular sugar and food production.

“The mores of Cuban business rely heavily on trust, which can only be earned in person,” said Eng. “By meeting face-to-face, we jointly overcame the myriad challenges we experienced communicating long-distance, and we reaffirmed our mutual desire to develop projects utilizing Greenbelt technology.”

Eng says a variety of factors make Greenbelt Resources uniquely suitable for government approval in the current diplomatic milieu. He notes the company is not a consumer business; their technology converts local food/farm industry wastes into local resources such as renewable fuel, animal feed and sustainable energy; and the Greenbelt local-scale model benefits small private farmers, much like small-tractor maker Cleber LLC, the first private Cuban-American company approved in Cuba.

Several factors make Special Economic Zone of Mariel (ZED Mariel) suitable for an initial deployment of Greenbelt solutions, Eng added. The sugar industry and other food producers have a strong presence in the area while businesses in the zone need a reliable source of industrial energy and fuel. In addition, he says, the government promises an accelerated review and approval process with emphasis on sustainable development.

Greenbelt Resources CFO Joe Pivinski added, “Now that we have established key relationships, and through those relationships confirmed the unique potential Cuba represents to our company our goal is to establish alliances with appropriate financial partners and funding sources to obtain capital to pursue these opportunities.”

US and Nigerian #Corn Growers Talk #Ethanol

NCGA's Paul Bertels and Nigerian Corn Growers Association's Edwin Uche in front of the NCGA office.

NCGA’s Paul Bertels and Nigerian Corn Growers Association’s Edwin Uche in front of the NCGA office.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) staffers welcomed the director of the Nigerian Corn Growers Association for a series of meetings this week on how farmers in the two nations can work together to increase corn demand.

Edwin Uche, director of the Nigerian Corn Growers Association, reached out for a meeting during the recent Maize Genetics Conference in Florida and expressed his excitement for NCGA’s work and enthusiasm for doing similar for farmers in Nigeria. During his visit to the NCGA office, Uche met with Vice President of Production and Stewardship Paul Bertels, Director of Communications Ken Colombini and Director of Development Joe Hodes.

Through a series of in-depth discussions, Uche explored ways in which he could increase corn demand in Nigeria while fostering acceptance of biotechnology and growing the country’s ethanol industry. A proponent of biotechnology in agriculture, Uche also hopes to move more farmers toward this productive technology and away from an ongoing reliance upon open pollinated varieties currently hampering yield in Nigeria.

Discussions yielded insights for NCGA as well. Uche shared his confusion as to how the idea of food versus fuel took hold in the United States, expressing that he sees how corn clearly provides an excellent way to meet both demands simultaneously. Additionally, his pro-biotechnology and pro-ethanol stances fostered hope for potential market growth in Nigeria which could lead to growth in American corn exports to the region.

House Members Urge Reduction in #Ethanol Tariffs

ttipA bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman this week urging him to examine opportunities to reduce any tariffs on U.S. produced energy, including ethanol, during the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-Tip) negotiations.

“The U.S. ethanol industry has been unfairly targeted by the EU for increased duties (on ethanol) which have subsequently eliminated U.S. share in the European market,” reads the letter from nine members of Congress. “Currently Europe cannot adequately produce enough ethanol for their own market without importing ethanol from foreign sources, such as the U.S.”

“As T-TIP negotiations progress toward completion,” they continued, “we are confident you can leverage access to all domestic energy sources, such as U.S. natural gas, crude, and ethanol in order to achieve a favorable outcome for these industries and the reduction or elimination of trade obstacles to market access in Europe.”

The European Commission imposed a 9.6 percent duty on U.S. ethanol over three years ago in response to an anti-dumping complaint lodged by European ethanol trade group ePURE. In May 2013, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy filed a complaint with the General Court in Luxembourg which is still being litigated challenging the Commission’s decision.

“The duties imposed were unjustified and blatantly protectionist,” says RFA CEO Bob Dinneen. “Sadly, the real losers in this are European consumers that have to pay more for motor fuel because the lowest-cost liquid fuel in the world — U.S. ethanol — has been targeted by their protectionist policy. Since Europe cannot produce sufficient domestic ethanol supply, and must import the fuel from foreign sources, including the U.S., it is time to see the duties removed.”

RFA, Growth Energy Join USGC

US Grains Council logoThe U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) membership is expanding. This month the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy became official members. Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE) and Al-Corn Clean Fuel also joined this month. USGC says their newest members, especially the ethanol trade organizations, will benefit them in multiple ways as they work together to increase global ethanol exports. Both groups will also have seats on USGC’s ethanol Advisory Team.

rfalogo1“We are proud to have RFA’s and Growth’s full support promoting ethanol overseas,” said USGC Chief Economist Mike Dwyer. “While they have sat on an advisory committee before, now they will really have the chance to engage as members. These organizations specialize in ethanol and offer input and context that will take our A-Team activities and programs to a new level.”

The 2014/2015 marketing year saw the second largest quantity of U.S ethanol shipped overseas. The organizations are using this as foundation for promoting U.S. ethanol as a clean-burning source of fuel to buyers and end-users around the globe. Lase year, this work was done through ongoing assessments of potential markets; bringing three buyers teams to visit the United States; bringing two groups of U.S. ethanol industry representatives overseas; and a series of workshops focusing on the environmental and economic benefits of ethanol use in China.

This year, this Council’s work will focus on the Asia-Pacific region, particularly Japan, Mexico, India and China as priority markets, with additional opportunities in Peru, the Philippines and other countries that are increasingly receptive to the benefits of blending ethanol into their fuel supplies.

growth-energy-logo1“With RFA’s and Growth’s growing engagement in these programs, the steering committee is showing their commitment to our work abroad,” Dwyer said. “Developing new markets for fuel ethanol exports offers new opportunity for U.S. corn and sorghum producers and offers us new ways to partner with customers looking to reduce their fuel costs and their environmental impacts.”

Report Confirms Ethanol’s GHG Reductions

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 8.22.03 PMEarlier this month the European Commission released its new report, “The land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU,” (GLOBIOM). The study assessed the (indirect) land use change (LUC) impacts of biofuels demand expected as a result of Europe’s 2020 climate and energy policy. According to the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE), the study found that increased demand for European produced ethanol would have low impacts on land use change and confirms ethanol’s high net greenhouse gas (GHG) savings.

The study was conducted by IIASA, Ecofys and E4Tech at the request of the European Commission. The report found that the increased demand from ethanol made from sugar and starch crops, such as corn, along with cellulosic biomass bill have low impacts ILUC. In addition, the study found that this increase in demand will have no impact on food prices through 2020.

Specifically, the study finds that:

  • Conventional ethanol feedstocks, such as sugar and starch crops, have much lower land use change emissions impacts than other biofuel feedstocks. For example, in Europe the key feedstocks used to produce ethanol would have LUC emissions of 14g CO2 e/MJ for maize, 15g CO2 e/MJ for sugar beet and 34g CO2 e/MJ for wheat.
  • Cellulosic ethanol feedstocks similarly have a low or even positive LUC impact (16g CO2 e/MJ for straw ethanol, 0g CO2 e/MJ if a sustainable straw removal rate is introduced, -12g CO2 e/MJ and -29g CO2 e/MJ for perennials and short rotation crops).
  • Land use change impacts and associated emissions can be much lower if: abandoned land in the EU is used for biofuels production; yield increases occur as a result of biofuels demand; and/or peat drainage in Malaysia and Indonesia is halted.

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Lowes Removes ‘Ditch Ethanol’ Signs

The Renewable Fuels Association wrote a letter to Lowe’s CEO requesting that the “Ditch Ethanol” signs that were popping up on the Midwest be removed. Shortly after the letter was received, Lowes contacted RFA and said they were in the process of removing all the signs and they should all be gone within several days. The signs inaccurately warned consumers not to use ethanol in small engines.

rfalogo1“Thank you to Lowe’s for listening to RFA’s member companies and the nearly 400,000 workers and farmers across the country whose employment is dependent upon the success of renewable fuels,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “It is refreshing to see a large national corporation move so quickly to correct an obvious mistake. Lowe’s should be commended for the leadership they have demonstrated to address this situation conclusively and swiftly. We will continue to combat any and all misinformation about ethanol, to ensure consumers have access to the lowest cost, cleanest octane source in the world.”

Chicago Thornton’s Locations Now Selling E15

Thornton’s will be selling E15 at 43 Chicago-area locations by the end of this month. The fuel retailer has branded the ethanol blend Unleaded15.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 10.54.35 AM“Unleaded 15 offers a great value to our Chicago guests, and supports our desire to provide the best possible fuel options,” said Jeff Gallic, Vice President of Fuel Supply. “Thorntons has offered E85 for years and given the market demand for higher ethanol blends, we feel Unleaded15 is the next logical step for our fuel portfolio.”

The industry responded to the news today with Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) stating, “We are pleased to see E15’s footprint growing throughout the country. Chicago consumers can now benefit from using a lower carbon, higher octane fuel blend that is approved for nearly 80% of today’s automotive fleet. This is also the first significant rollout of E15 in a reformulated gasoline market, designated by EPA in nearly 20 cities to help reduce smog levels with cleaner gasoline. That designation means E15 can be sold year-round in Chicago without being hampered by burdensome EPA gasoline volatility restrictions when the nation switches from winter to summer gasoline regulations.”

Growth Energy Co-Chair Tom Buis added, “On behalf of Growth Energy and its members, I would like to commend Thorntons for their decision to offer consumers Unleaded15, providing them with the opportunity to choose a homegrown, renewable fuel at the pump. By adding this E15 offering to their fuel portfolio, Thorntons has demonstrated their commitment to consumer choice, and a cleaner burning, homegrown high-performance fuel. Now Chicagoans will have the chance to do so as well by choosing to fill up with Unleaded15.”

RFA: Ditch the ‘Ditch Ethanol’ Sign Lowes

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling out Lowes for its “ditch ethanol” signage at stores. In a letter to Lowes CEO Robert Niblock, RFA CEO and President Bob Dinneen urged the removal of a sign appearing at several Midwest locations that inaccurately warn consumers not to use ethanol blends in small engines. Dinneen writes that the “Ditch the Ethanol” sign contains numerous statements that “are simply incorrect and are contrary to the very guidance found in the owner’s manuals on the shelves of your own stores.”

“We find the sign very troubling and are concerned with the massive amount of misinformation posted to ostensibly educate consumers,” said Dinneen. “We urge Lowe’s to remove the misleading sign, or else we may be forced to pursue legal efforts to prevent the further dissemination of false information to consumers.”

Lowes-Ethanol-SignIn the letter, RFA rebutted each statement made on the sign, including:

Ethanol burns hotter and wears out your small engine faster.

  • Every small engine that you offer at Lowe’s was designed and engineered to run on ethanol blends up to 10% ethanol. If you read any small engine owner’s manual found at Lowe’s, you will see this fact, and that all warranties cover the use of ethanol blends up to 10% ethanol. If this sign was intended for higher blends of ethanol, it should be clarified, and also should be noted that any blend of ethanol in small engine applications would be illegal. This would include E15 and E85. All blends above 10% are clearly labeled at the pump to ensure consumers know that they are not purchasing E10 (or 10% ethanol).
  • Ethanol blended gasoline does not wear out your engine faster, or the manufacturers could not offer warranty to cover today’s fuel. I have personally used E10 in all of my small engines for more than two decades, and have yet to have an issue. This statement makes it seem like Lowe’s has some unique insight and data on engine wear that the own manufacturers that make the engines do not. I highly doubt that is accurate.

Most pump gas contains 10% or more ethanol.

  • It is true that most pump gas contains ethanol, but 10% ethanol or less, otherwise known as E10 (or fuel approved for all small engine use). Roughly 96% of all unleaded sold today contains 10% ethanol.
  • There are only ~180 stations that sell E15 and ~3,400 stations that sell E85, both of which are not approved for small engines. But, these two higher blends are definitely not commonplace in the 140,000 retail fuel stations.”

“I am asking respectfully that Lowe’s work with us to remove this misleading signage at your stores immediately,” Dinneen concluded.

EPA, CFTC to Share RFS& RIN Data, Analysis

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that allows the agencies to share data and analysis on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). As part of the deal, the agencies will cooperate and coordinate on topics relevant to the RFS and the market for Renewable Identification Numbers (RINS).

CFTC logoMore specifically, the MOU states, with the partnership the Commission can, “advise EPA on techniques that could be employed to minimize fraud, market abuses or other violations, and to conduct appropriate oversight in RIN and renewable fuels markets to aid EPA in successfully fulfilling the EPA’s statutory functions…” Sharing of the information will “…increase the CFTC’s understanding of the operation of and participants in those markets.” CFTC is an independent federal agency that regulates U.S. futures and options markets.

In response to the news, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen stated, “We are encouraged to see that EPA is coordinating and cooperating with CFTC to identify methods for improving the transparency and efficiency of the RIN market. For several years, RFA, members of Congress, and other stakeholders with an interest in the success of the RFS have been requesting that EPA coordinate with CFTC to take steps to prevent manipulation and increase transparency in the RIN market. Through this agreement, we believe CFTC will provide valuable expertise and insight that will improve the functionality and clarity of the RIN system for all market participants and the public.”