Energy in the Budget Proposal

2017-budgetAs promised, energy was a focus of President Obama’s 2017 budget proposal, officially unveiled on Tuesday, with a promise to “move our economy away from energy sources that fuel climate change.”

The budget provides for $7.7 billion in discretionary funding for clean energy research and development across 12 agencies, including $106 million for USDA to “support development of biobased energy sources that range from sustainable and economical forest systems and farm products to increased production of biofuels.”

According to USDA, the budget proposal includes a $25 million increase in competitive research funding to support development of biobased energy sources and earmarks $450 million for the Rural Energy for America Program to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses in developing renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements, and renewable energy development through loans and grants.
.

Budget Expected to Double Clean Energy Funding

The president’s budget to be released today would double funding for clean energy research and development by 2020, according to President Obama’s weekly address made on Saturday.

obama-address-2-6“This will include new investments to help the private sector create more jobs faster, lower the cost of clean energy faster, and help clean, renewable power outcompete dirty fuels in every state,” said Obama. “And while Republicans in Congress are still considering their position on climate change, many of them realize that clean energy is an incredible source of good-paying jobs for their constituents. That’s why we were able to boost clean energy research and development in last year’s budget agreement. And I hope they support my plan to double that kind of investment.”

The president also plans on proposing a $10-a-barrel tax on oil to fund clean energy initiatives.

McConnell Urges Senate to Move Energy Bill

mcconnellSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor on Monday to urge his colleagues to move the bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act forward after Democrats blocked the bill and the amendment process last week over an impasse on including aid to address the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

“The Energy Policy Modernization Act is the product of a year’s worth of constructive and collaborative work,” said McConnell. “In the Energy Committee, it passed overwhelmingly with the support of both parties…(and) more than 30 amendments from both Democrats and Republicans have been adopted already.”

McConnell encouraged Democrats to reconsider actions taken last week. “The Energy Policy Modernization Act is broad, bipartisan legislation designed to help Americans produce more energy, pay less for energy, and save energy — all while helping strengthen our long-term national security,” he said. “I’m asking colleagues to take ‘yes’ for an answer and allow the open amendment process to continue — so we can pass it, which is so important to helping our country prepare for the energy demands of today and the energy opportunities of tomorrow.”

Iowa Delegation Urges EPA to Get RFS on Track

The entire Iowa congressional delegation this week urged the EPA to propose 2017 ethanol and 2018 biodiesel Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) consistent with enacted law.

A letter signed by Iowa Congressmen David Young, Rod Blum, Steve King, and Dave Loebsack, and Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, was sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy encouraging her to commit to getting the RFS back on track.

“Our agricultural base in Iowa, serving as feedstock for ethanol and biodiesel production, has near record supplies of excess corn,” the members of Congress wrote. “We believe the statutory levels are more than achievable in the coming year.”

irfa-iowa-delegationReps. Loebsack, Young and King all appeared Tuesday at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit to discuss the letter and the importance of the RFS.

“We’ll see if we get any results,” from the letter, said Rep. King. “But we’ve been saying consistently and persistently that the RFS is in statute – follow it.”

“It’s not totally out of the question for us to work together,” said Loebsack, the only Democrat of the three. “And on this issue it’s a complete no brainer … it’s about our economy, it’s about our farmers, it’s about national security, it’s about a lot of things.”

“We have farm income down about 35% and we have the EPA which seems to be on a warpath at times,” said Young. “We’re just asking the EPA to obey the law.”

Listen to the press conference here: Iowa congressmen at Iowa RFA

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

Great Green Fleet Deployed

vilsack-navy-fleetSecretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack kicked off the Great Green Fleet with the deployment of the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCS CSG) during a ceremony Wednesday in California. At the end of the ceremony, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale left the pier to begin its deployment, becoming the first U.S. Navy ship running on an alternative fuel blend as part of its regular operations.

The Great Green Fleet is a Department of the Navy initiative using energy efficiency and alternative fuels to increase combat capability and operational flexibility. “The Great Green Fleet shows how we are transforming our energy use to make us better warfighters, to go farther, stay longer, and deliver more firepower,” said Mabus. “Diversifying our energy sources arms us with operational flexibility and strengthens our ability to provide presence, turning the tables on those who would use energy as a weapon against us.”

The blend fueling the Navy ships contains alternative fuel made from waste beef fat provided by farmers in the Midwest purchased through a partnership between the Navy and USDA. “The Navy’s use of renewable energy in the Great Green Fleet represents its ability to diversify its energy sources, and also our nation’s ability to take what would be a waste product and create homegrown, clean, advanced biofuels to support a variety of transportation needs,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today’s deployment proves that America is on its way to a secure, clean energy future, where both defense and commercial transportation can be fueled by our own hardworking farmers and ranchers, reduce landfill waste, and bring manufacturing jobs back to rural America.”

The advanced fuel blend was produced by California-based AltAir Fuels from a feedstock of beef tallow – waste beef fat – provided by Midwest farmers and ranchers, and traditional petroleum provided by Tesoro. Pursuant to Navy requirements, the alternative fuel is drop-in, meaning it requires no changes to ship engines, transport or delivery equipment, or operational procedures.

Four GOP Candidates Address #Ethanol

Four Republican presidential candidates addressed the 10th annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit on Tuesday, putting a major national spotlight on the importance of ethanol to the nation.

irfa-santorumFirst up was former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the only candidate who had been there before, making his third appearance to the group. He stressed his long support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “I am not a newbie to the RFS world,” he said. “I’m the only person in this race who actually voted for the RFS when I was in the United States Senate in 2005.”

Alluding to Senator Ted Cruz, who was not invited to speak at the summit but who has strong support in Iowa, Santorum encouraged ethanol supporters to “Stand up for someone who supports the RFS.”

Listen to Santorum’s remarks here: Rick Santorum at Iowa RFA

irfa-trumpFront runner Donald Trump was next up, reading from prepared remarks and also stressing his support for the RFS. “The RFS is an important tool in the mission to achieve energy independence for the United States,” Trump said. “I will do all that is in my power as president to achieve that goal.”

Trump also noted remarks that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad made in a press conference at the event that “it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him.”

Listen to Trump’s remarks here: Donald Trump at Iowa RFA

irfa-huckabeeFollowing Trump was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who stressed the importance of farmers in the goal of energy independence, saying people don’t appreciate “that our agricultural system not only provides the food and fiber for our tables, but now is doing something truly remarkable – helping provide fuel for our energy needs.”

Huckabee said the RFS created investment in renewable fuels and “something magic happened – the program actually worked!”

Listen to Huckabee’s remarks here: Mike Huckabee at Iowa RFA

irfa-fiorinaLast to take the stage was businesswoman Carly Fiorina who talked about the EPA’s final rule for biofuels volume obligations under the RFS made last year that is lower than Congress intended.

“What’s going on with renewable rule standards, what’s going on with EPA, are an example of what’s wrong with our government,” she said. “They are one of the reasons why I’m running for the presidency of the United States.”

Listen to Fiorina’s remarks here: Carly Fiorina at Iowa RFA

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

Virent Biojet Fuel Confirmed to Reduce Emissions

virentBiojet fuel from Virent has passed emissions testing by the government and a major jet engine maker. This news release from the company says its jet fuels containing Virent’s BioForm® Synthesized Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) fuel blend produced a greater than 50 percent reduction in particulate matter emissions compared to conventional jet fuel, according to testing by Rolls-Royce and supported by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The testing verified the potential for the SAK fuel to reduce the adverse environmental impact and health effects resulting from jet fuel combustion.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency within the United Nations, is leading international policy making efforts to control particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions.

Virent’s SAK fuel can reduce both particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions without compromising engine performance, and when fully commercialized will support the growth of the aviation industry while addressing anticipated ICAO regulations.

Virent was chosen to participate in the initial Rolls-Royce Laboratory Test program, and was then selected by Rolls-Royce to proceed to the more advanced Rig Testing portion of the program.

Virent’s SAK fuel blend met all test requirements and the report concluded that the fuel “…offers the potential to be [a] drop-in fuel and hence achieve approval for use for the aviation industry”.

Virent’s renewable SAK fuel is produced in its pilot demonstration plant in Madison, Wisconsin.

Biodiesel RIN Defrauder Gets 20 Years in Prison

scalesofjustice1In a clear message that the integrity of the biodiesel incentive system will be upheld, the Justice Department has sentenced a man to 20 years in prison for his part in defrauding the government to the tune of $55 million. This article from The Hill says Joseph Furando participated in a process over several years to buy and resell biodiesel, claiming both the federal tax credit for it and the valuable renewable identification numbers (RINs) that fuel refiners use to certify that they complied with blending requirements.

“Fraud in the renewable fuels program compromises our ability to fight climate change and reduce dependence on foreign oil,” Cynthia Giles, head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) enforcement division, said in a statement.

“When people approach these programs with bad faith and seek to exploit them, these purposes are blocked, American businesses are hurt and the treasury of the United States is depleted,” said John Cruden, head of the Justice Department’s environmental office. “This significant prison sentence sends the right message that such fraud will not be tolerated.”

Officials say Furando used the money to buy a Ferrari and other high-end cars, a million-dollar home, expensive artwork, a piano and other items, all of which he’ll have to forfeit. He also had a biodiesel-powered motorcycle built by the show American Chopper, which he will have to forfeit.

Furando was sentenced in an Indiana court.

Tax Extenders Package Includes Renewables

The broad spending and tax legislation compromise unveiled by House Republicans Tuesday night includes federal tax incentive extensions for renewable energy, including biodiesel, wind and solar.

nBBThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) commended congressional leaders for reinstating the expired biodiesel tax incentive in the tax and spending proposal released late Tuesday but continued pressing to reform the incentive as a domestic production credit

“Restoring this tax incentive will create jobs and economic activity at biodiesel plants across the country, so we want to thank leaders in the House and Senate for proposing this extension,” says NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “Unfortunately the impact would be muted because this proposal would continue allowing foreign biodiesel to qualify for the tax incentive. This not only costs taxpayers more money but it paves the way for foreign fuels that already receive incentives in their home countries to undercut US production.”

Under the current blender’s tax credit, biodiesel produced overseas that is blended with diesel in the US qualifies for the $1-per-gallon tax credit. This has caused imports to rise sharply in recent years. In 2012, the US imported fewer than 100 million gallons of biodiesel. This year, imports will exceed 650 million gallons, and the Energy Information Agency recently estimated that volume will grow to more than 700 million gallons in 2016. Most of the imports are coming from companies in Argentina, Asia and Europe.

rfalogo1Bob Dinneen, CEO and President of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) said of the package, ““By including these important tax incentives in the spending bill, congressional lawmakers sent a strong signal that they are interested in ensuring and encouraging the continued growth and innovation of our nation’s biofuels industry” said Dinneen. “These incentives are crucial for leveling the playing field in a tax code that is, unfortunately, overwhelmingly tilted toward the oil and gas industry. Oil companies have long benefited from billions in accelerated depreciation, intangible drilling expenses, and countless other tax breaks that are permanently imbedded in the tax code. Fundamental tax reform is critical to correct this imbalance.”

Extensions for wind energy’s $0.023/kWh production tax credit (PTC) and solar energy’s 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) are also part of the package. The wind PTC would be extended through 2020 and would decline in value each year after December 2016 until it is phased out entirely. The solar ITC would be drawn down gradually through 2022. Continue reading

USDA Gives $70 Mil Loan Guarantee for Biofuel Plant

usda-logoA cellulosic biofuel plant in Georgia will get built, thanks in part to a $70 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan guarantee. This news release from USDA says the money is being made available through the agency’s Biorefinery Assistance Program.

“There is a clear consumer demand for clean, American-made, renewable fuels, which our rural communities stand ready to meet,” said [Ag Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “USDA is proud to support environmentally and technologically sound projects like this one, which will increase biofuel availability nationwide and create jobs in rural Georgia. This loan commitment is the most recent example of our support for President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, which includes alternative and renewable fuel sources.”

Ensyn Georgia Biorefinery I, LLC (Ensyn) will construct and operate a cellulosic biofuel refinery in Dooly County, Georgia. The company will produce 20 million gallons of renewable fuel per year employing its Rapid Thermal Processing (RTP) technology. RTP uses a fast thermal process to convert non-food-based feedstocks into biobased fuels.

Ensyn will convert 440 dry tons of woody biomass into a renewable fuel oil (RFO) product. There is an abundant supply of woody biomass near the plant due to excess forest materials in the region. However, Ensyn can use a variety of other non-food cellulosic feedstocks as well.

The renewable fuel oil will be used as a heating oil replacement and as a renewable feedstock for diesel and gasoline production at refineries.