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

Urban Air Initiative: Ethanol Reduces Engine Wear

The Urban Air Initiative (UAI) has released a study that finds ethanol free gasoline blends actually increase the wear and tear on engines including hoses, seals and fuel tanks. In other words, the data supports ethanol blends lead to cleaner engines. The findings were presented at the semi-annual meeting of ASTM by Steve Vander Griend, technical director for UAI who also works for ICM.

The report demonstrated that high aromatic content of gasoline, including toxic aromatics like benzene and toluene, negatively impact engine parts. Vander Griend explained in his presentation that the toxic aromatics create a significant increase in the escape of harmful emissions that can have a devastating impact on public health as these are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency has known and suspected carcinogens.

“What we are seeing is that benzene and toluene are increasing permeation, which means increasing the amount of fuel vapors that seep from a vehicle. For anyone who has a garage at home and smells gasoline, vapors are escaping through the vehicles fuel system or small engine gas tank,” said Vander Griend.

Also during his presentation Vander Griend explained that extensive testing was conducted on fuel lines, gas containers, and plastic components. The materials were each soaked in straight gasoline (E0) and a 10 percent ethanol blend (E10) for extended periods of time. In every case, said Vander Griend, the ethanol free gasoline increased the damage to fuel lines, gas containers, and plastic components, while the materials soaked in E10 were impacted less. Continue reading

Corn Growers Testify and Rally for RFS

Corn growers from across the nation were in Kansas City, Kansas last week to testify and rally in support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

rfs-hearing-ncgaLeaders of the National Corn Growers Association were among over 200 stakeholders to provide comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce the volume of ethanol required to be used in the nation’s fuel supply under the RFS.

NCGA President Chip Bowling of Maryland, NCGA Ethanol Committee chairman Jeff Sandbourn, and NCGA Chairman Martin Barbre of Illinois testified that EPA’s proposal would cut nearly 4 billion gallons of ethanol from the RFS through 2016, representing nearly a billion and a half bushels in lost corn demand.

rfs-rally-chip“We simply cannot afford – and will not tolerate – efforts to cut the demand for corn, and that’s exactly what your proposal will do,” Bowling told the EPA. “We cannot let this stand. We’ve done our part, and our allies in the ethanol industry have done their part. It’s time the EPA sided with those of us supporting a domestic, renewable fuel that’s better for the environment.”

Corn growers also led a rally near the hearing in support of the RFS. “We have never before seen so much grassroots interest in a particular issue,” said Bowling. “The many who came here today had to set aside important work back home, with delayed planting or other important field work. They are here because they know what’s at stake.”

Listen to the corn growers testimony here:
NCGA testimony at RFS hearing

Listen to the rally speakers here:
RFS Works Rally

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

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

FFA Helps ‘Prime the Pump’ for Ethanol & Students

syngenta-enogen-nascar-15-ffaMaker of Enogen corn, Syngenta, recently announced it had raised money for ethanol infrastructure through the “Prime the Pump” campaign, an industry initiative to help early retail adopters of high-level ethanol blends through grants to reduce their initial investment in infrastructure. By donating a dollar for every acre of corn planted with the Enogen variety, Syngenta will put approximately $600,000 into the fund. In addition, the company teamed up with local FFA members at the American Ethanol 200 NASCAR truck race in Iowa and matched dollars the group raised through donations at the race, a percentage of that the FFA groups get to keep.

Dan Lopez is the high school guidance counselor at South Tama. He said his students were able to get out and talk with a lot of the tailgaters at the race.

“One hundred percent of the folks have been behind [ethanol],” he told Chuck during an interview, adding the people have been appreciative of Syngenta’s efforts to get more ethanol out to consumers and how the company supports the FFA.

Miranda Johnson who teaches at Twin Cedars Community School District said the folks at the race understand ethanol. “They understand the importance of using ethanol. It’s been great!”

While Johnson said her FFA hasn’t decided yet what to do with the money raised, Lopez’s FFA plans to use its share to send students to the national FFA convention.

Listen to Chuck’s interviews with both FFA groups here: South Tama FFA Twin Cedars FFA

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

DOE Invests in Sorghum

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has committed to investing up to $30 million in sorghum research through the Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) program. The TERRA program seeks to develop technologies that can increase the precision, accuracy and throughput of energy crops breeding. Doing so, said DOE, will enable more detailed measurements of phenotyping, plant physiology and more sophisticated bioinformatics for gene discovery and trait association.

Photo Credit: Mississippi Crop Situation

Photo Credit: Mississippi Crop Situation

“This investment is critical for the sorghum industry’s future,” said J.B. Stewart, National Sorghum Producers board chairman. “Producer investments alone cannot move the industry forward. We must have government and private industry investment. We applaud DOE for making such a vital commitment to our rapidly growing industry.”

This is one of the largest investments the sorghum industry has seen to date and will have a significant impact on the future of sorghum. A total of six projects were funded through the DOE at universities and research institutions across the nation. The project locations are Clemson University, Purdue University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension, University of Illinois, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

“This underscore’s something we strongly believe in,” added Clayton Short, renewables committee chair for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. “Sorghum is a genetically diverse crop ripe for improvement. The DOE realizes this and we are excited to see what additional opportunities this leads too.”

NSP and the Sorghum Checkoff continue to invest in relationships with DOE, private industry and researching universities and will keep members updated as research progresses and results are published.

RFA Chairman to EPA: Tear Down the Blend Wall

rfs-rally-doyleTestifying at a public hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and rally in Kansas City, Kansas Thursday, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) board chairman Randy Doyal urged EPA to “tear down the blend wall” and implement the statute as Congress intended.

In his testimony at the hearing, the CEO of Minnesota-based Al-Corn Clean Fuel said that even though gasoline consumption might be slightly lower today than Congress anticipated when it adopted the RFS, it was always the intent of the program to push beyond the blend wall and increase the share of renewable fuels in our nation’s fuel supply.

“…the Clean Air Act statute does not permit EPA to take into account ‘factors that affect consumption,’ such as purported infrastructure constraints or the so-called ‘blend wall,’ in determining whether to grant a general waiver of the RFS,” Doyal noted. “By embracing the ‘blend wall’ concept, the EPA proposal not only violates the law, but also undermines the incentive to expand biofuel production and distribution capacity, and allows oil companies to only blend as much renewable fuel as they are comfortable using.”

Doyal also made remarks at the #RFSWorks rally. RFA chair Randy Doyal at RFS rally

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

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

Enogen, Tech Boost Ethanol, Corn Producers’ Profits

syngenta-enogen-nascar-15-johnsonCombining its own patented process for converting the corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol with Syngenta’s Enogen corn, specially bred for ethanol production, Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) is boosting its bottom line, as well as the profits for local growers. During an interview at the American Ethanol 200 in Iowa, CEO Delayne Johnson explained they use the alpha amylase enzyme already in Enogen corn with their own process to enhance the production of ethanol.

“When we combine the two technologies together, the benefits of [Enogen and the technology] allows plants to get up to 15 percent additional throughput, reduce energy content by 10 percent, and it also allows them to get all the benefits out of [both technologies combined],” he said.

Delayne added the $1 million a year his company doesn’t have to pay for the alpha amylase enzyme it would have had to add to ethanol production allows it to pay premiums to local farmers.

“It’s been fantastic for continuing to turn the dollars in rural America.”

Listen to all of Chuck’s interview with Delayne here: Delayne Johnson, CEO of Quad County Corn Processors

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