Camelina Offers Dual-Crop Possibility for Biodiesel

camelina harvest1Camelina could help end the food-versus-fuel debate for biodiesel. This article from the American Society of Agronomy says that new research found that growing camelina with soybeans in the Upper Midwest has promising signs.

Russ Gesch, a plant physiologist with the USDA Soil Conservation Research Lab in Morris, Minnesota, found encouraging results when growing Camelina sativa with soybean in the Midwest.

Camelina is a member of the mustard family and an emerging biofuel crop. It is well suited as a cover crop in the Midwest. “Finding any annual crop that will survive the [Midwest] winters is pretty difficult,” says Gesch, “but winter camelina does that and it has a short enough growing season to allow farmers to grow a second crop after it during the summer.”

Additionally, in the upper Midwest, soils need to retain enough rainwater for multiple crops in one growing season. Gesch and his colleagues measured water use of two systems of dual-cropping using camelina and soybean. They compared it with a more typical soybean field at the Swan Lake Research Farm near Morris, MN.

First, researchers planted camelina at the end of September. From there growing methods differed. In double-cropping, soybean enters the field after the camelina harvest in June or July. Relay-cropping, however, overlaps the crops’ time. Soybeans grow between rows of camelina in April or May before the camelina plants mature and flower.

While dual-cropping might not work for everyone, such as farms in the more arid West, where it does work, it also offers benefits, such as boosting soybean yields. Plus, the camelina flowers offer a good food source for pollinators at a time when there might not be a lot for the bees to eat.

Group Debunks ‘Food-vs-Fuel’ and Other RFS Myths

As we wait (and wait and wait and wait) for the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision regarding the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, one group is taking the time to debunk some myths that might be giving the EPA a reason to hesitate. Media Matters has issued a report debunking the “food-versus-fuel” myth, along with several possible Renewable Fuel Standard-stopping myths.

MYTH: Renewable Fuel Standards Raise Food Prices…

FACT: Ethanol Production Does Not Divert Food Or Raise Prices

CBO Report: RFS Will Not Significantly Alter Food Prices. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed how the RFS will impact the economy beyond 2014 and determined that it will have no significant impact on food prices. The CBO also stated that if the standards were increased to meet the initially proposed requirements by 2017, it would result in increased spending on food by just one-quarter of 1 percent…

MYTH: Ethanol Will Harm Your Vehicle…

FACT: Rigorous Studies Show That Ethanol Does Not Harm Engines

DOE: Industry-Funded Study Claiming Ethanol Hurts Engines Is “Significantly Flawed.” Patrick B. Davis, the manager of the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Program, published an article critiquing the CRC study that found E15 and E20 (a gasoline blend with 20 percent ethanol) hurt auto engines. The DOE concluded that the study was “significantly flawed” because it did not establish a proper control group and that it cherry-picked vehicles “already known to have durability issues”

The report also presents plenty more facts debunking myths about how ethanol is supposed to actually be bad for the environment and how biofuels are heavily subsidized, among others.

RFA Updates Fueling A Nation, Feeding the World

An updated version of the paper “Fueling a Nation, Feeding the World,” has been released by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The publication outlines ethanol’s contribution to the global food and feed supply and also contains information that RFA said disproves the “fabricated food vs. fuel” debate.

Fueling a nation“The U.S. ethanol industry has quietly evolved into one of the largest feed processing sectors in the world, generating nearly 40 million metric tons of high-protein, high-energy animal feed in the 2013/14 marketing year,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “The RFA publication is a resource intended to educate policymakers and consumers about the industry’s role in producing feed, to counter the nonsensical food vs. fuel notion, and explain the benefits of ethanol production and co-products for both food and feed markets.”

The booklet outlines the co-products of ethanol production, such as distillers grain, corn distillers oil and corn gluten feed. For example, a 56-pound bushel of corn will yield 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of distillers grain, which is commonly fed to beef cattle, dairy cows, swine, poultry, and even fish. The handbook explains that “the feed produced by ethanol plants in 2013/14 would be enough to produce nearly 50 billion quarter-pound hamburger patties — or seven patties for every person on the planet.”

The publication concludes by stating, “Not only are U.S. ethanol producers helping to meet future demands for energy, but they are also helping to meet the increasing food and feed needs of a growing world.”

RFA will be sharing the booklet with international buyers and U.S. producers of ethanol-related co-products, such as distillers grain, at the Export Exchange taking place in Seattle, Washington October 20-22 2014.

Food Prices Still Up Despite Lower Corn Prices

With record corn production forecast this year comes lower corn prices, which makes the food versus fuel argument harder than ever to make, according to Growth Energy.

Total corn production is now projected at 14.475 billion bushels, 550 million bushels more than last year’s record, while the average price received by farmers is expected to be $3.40 per bushel, the lowest price in eight years.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports the international food price index is down 6.0 percent over the last year, grain prices are down nearly 9 percent since 2013, but meat prices are nearly 22 percent higher than a year ago.

Domestic food prices are up 2.5 percent compared to December 2013, nearly the same as the overall Consumer Price Index, which is up 2.1 percent for the same period. But while corn and other grain prices are rapidly declining, consumer meat prices are up 11.6 percent since last December.

growth-energy-logo“The current WASDE projections and recent reports from the FAO and Bureau of Labor Statistics further confirm that there is virtually no correlation between U.S. ethanol production and consumer food prices,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “Corn prices are below the cost of production for most farmers, and ethanol is selling approximately $1.00 per gallon less than the gasoline on the wholesale marketplace.”

“As integrated livestock and poultry companies brag about their record profits and margins to their stockholders and investment bankers, the Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council and The National Council of Chain Restaurants, all allies of Big Oil, continue their campaign to intentionally mislead Americans about the cause of rising food prices in the U.S,” Buis added.

Ethanol Report: Ethanol Production, RFS & EPA

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen discusses ethanol production for the year so far, new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) ad campaigns and gives his thoughts on the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations that are under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review.

In addition, he touches on record corn crop production, on why the food versus fuel debate should end and Quad County Corn Processors cellulosic ethanol production grand opening.

Ethanol Report on Ethanol Production, RFS Food EPA

Ethanol Report on Corn and Food Prices

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper talks about how corn prices have fallen but food prices continue to rise, and how that shows the “food versus fuel” argument is false.

A new report from RFA compares corn prices to the price of dairy products, pork products, beef products, and poultry and egg products from January 2007 – July 2014.

Ethanol Report on Corn and Food Prices

RFA Releases Report to Debunk ‘Food v Fuel’

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has released a new report today in an effort to “debunk” what they call the “fictional” food versus fuel debate. The report finds that while corn prices have dropped dramatically over the past two years, retail food prices of key foods including eggs, beef, poultry and pork have remained steady or continue to increase. The report concludes, “… fluctuations in corn prices do not significantly affect consumer food prices.”

RFA Corn Prices are plungingThe report examined a number of factors that contribute to food prices including the cost of food production, pointing to Citibank’s Sterling Smith who stated, “Corn prices may have come down 50% (from their highs), but that doesn’t mean a box of corn flakes will fall 50% in price. Much of the price of food comes from the processing and movement of food…” Additionally, the report also highlighted the role of crude oil in retail food prices, finding that “…every step in the food supply chain is significantly affected by energy costs—especially crude oil.”

The report also compared corn prices to the price of dairy products, pork products, beef products poultry products and egg products from January 2007 – July 2014. Report findings include:

Retail prices for key dairy items like milk and cheese have been largely unresponsive to changes in corn prices. In fact, since January 2011, milk and cheese prices have been negatively correlated to corn prices, meaning retail milk and cheese prices have tended to move in the opposite direction of movements in corn prices.

  • Retail prices for items (like chicken legs, frozen whole turkey, fresh whole chicken) have risen steadily and smoothly since 2007. Wide swings in corn prices did not interrupt or affect the gradual trend toward higher prices for these items.
  • Retail prices for pork products have not shown any meaningful relationship to corn prices over the past seven years. It is well documented that the recent acceleration in pork and bacon prices has been driven by piglet casualties resulting from Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv). These retail price increases have occurred at a time when corn prices have been plunging.
  • Retail ground beef prices have steadily and smoothly trended higher over the past seven years, showing no obvious response to wide swings in corn prices.

“The food vs. fuel folks screamed to high heaven when the price of corn rose during the drought and immediately blamed high corn prices and ethanol for food price increases,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “However, these same critics remain suspiciously quiet now that corn prices have dropped, but retail food prices aren’t dropping along with them. The food vs. fuel argument is just another misguided attack on biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard, which is reducing foreign oil dependence, lowering gas prices for consumers, and revitalizing rural America.”

Ag Subcommittee Hears Pros and Cons of RFS

glauber1The food versus fuel debate arose once again in front of Congress. At last week’s U.S. House Ag Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., opponents and proponents of the Renewable Fuels Standard presented their arguments on the RFS and its impact on the livestock industry.

One of the biggest opponents of the RFS is the poultry industry. Their members argued that ethanol has forced up feed prices that keeps them from expanding operations and fulfilling consumers’ needs to have a cheaper alternative to beef and pork, calling the RFS “broken beyond repair.” But the chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dr. Joseph Glauber, said while ethanol initially did have an impact much bigger factors forced up the price of feed.

“Certainly, the ramp up [in ethanol production] we saw from 2005 to 2010 had a big impact on corn prices, but we also saw a big increase in energy prices, so it’s not the only thing going on,” he told the committee.

In fact, during that same ramp-up period, petroleum prices shot up to record levels, and RFS proponent, Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union, said the agriculture industry should be united for renewable fuels.

“The World Bank found that crude oil is the number one determinant of global food prices. We should reduce our dependance on oil consumption in order to be more food secure, and biofuel production is an excellent way to do that,” adding that pitting the biofuels industry against the livestock growers is counter-productive.

The bottom line, according to Glauber, is that biofuels are important, and they’re here to stay.

“Corn-based ethanol is a vibrant industry and is competitively priced against gasoline, and producers will continue to produce ethanol from corn as long as profit margins are there. And profit margins have been there.”

DF Cast: Lawmakers Listening to Ethanol Advocates

Ethanol backers got their voices heard during the recent American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Biofuels Beltway March in Washington, D.C. And at least some lawmakers were listening.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we talk to Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), and Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who met with ACE and its supporters and all expressed their backing of efforts to keep renewable fuels, especially ethanol, in the forefront of federal policies.

Listen to what they had to say after they listened to ACE: Domestic Fuel Cast - Lawmakers Meet with Ethanol Advocates

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

GRFA Calls for Redaction of Biofuels & Security Report

The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) is demanding the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) withdraw their Biofuels and Food Security report given its flaws and their refusal to release the report’s funding sources. The organization’s call to action comes as the Committee on World Food Security’s (CFS) annual Plenary gets underway in Rome, Italy.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 10.15.39 AMBiofuel industry associations representing Canada, the United States and European Ethanol producers sent a joint letter to members of the HLPE Steering Committee highlighting the numerous flaws in the reports drafting process and demanded to know the sources of funding behind it.

“It is not surprising that the final HLPE report was flawed given the secretive nature by which it was funded and the inherent biases among the appointed members of the so-called Project Team,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for GRFA.

The open letter released by the GRFA slammed the panel for the manner in which the project scope was finalized, the apparent disregard for stakeholder feedback provided during consultations, the opaque and secretive “external review” of the final draft report, the non-disclosure of the reports financial donors and the veiled process by which the Project Team was selected.

“It became apparent early in the process that industry concerns were being dismissed without any explanation from the HLPE,” said Baker. “It is essential in any public policy process to explain decisions for accepting or rejecting recommendations from stakeholders, but regrettably, the HLPE did not believe that an open transparent process was required.”

Equally concerning to the GRFA was the secretive way the Project Team was selected. Key stakeholders should have been allowed to participate in selecting a Project Team, said Baker, but instead the HLPE “hand-picked” its members. This “hand-picked” team did not include a single expert from the biofuels industry but instead included a known biofuels critic who was the primary author of a highly controversial theory of predicting future land use patterns that has been widely criticized.

“Effective policy is best informed with sound science and an open, transparent, deliberative process that involves the public,” added Baker. The HLPE did not adhere to any of these principles and because of these short comings the HLPE should withdraw the report at the CFS Plenary until these deficiencies are addressed. Moreover, it is imperative that the HLPE disclose the financial donors who contributed to this report.”