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.

China Top Customer for US Ethanol Exports

growth-exportsChina is America’s best customer when it comes to buying ethanol exports. Government numbers show October ethanol exports totaled 70.1 million gallons (mg), up 16 percent from September levels, making China for the first time ever the biggest importer of U.S. ethanol. This analysis from the Renewable Fuels Association’s Ann Lewis says Canada was the second-leading destination in October, but shipments were about one-third lower than September at 20.1 mg (29 percent of total exports).

The Philippines brought in 9.8 mg of U.S. product, while other key importers included South Korea (4.1 mg), Jamaica (1.5 mg) and Singapore (1.1 mg). Once again, Brazil completely disappeared from the U.S. export market. Total year-to-date ethanol exports for the United States are 695.0 mg—4% more than this time last year. Year-to-date shipments indicate an annualized rate of exports of 834 mg.

October exports of undenatured fuel ethanol tallied 19.5 mg, down 42% from September. The Philippines (9.8 mg) pulled in half of the product, with South Korea (4.0 mg), China (2.6 mg) and four others picking up the rest. Meanwhile, October exports of denatured fuel ethanol doubled to 47.0 mg, primarily split between China (29.9 mg) and Canada (17.1 mg). It was the largest monthly total of the year for denatured fuel ethanol exports.The United States exported 3.6 mg of undenatured and denatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage use, up 17% from September. Most product crossed our borders to Canada (3.0 mg, or 92%) and Mexico (250,036 gallons, or 7%).

U.S. ethanol imports dropped to 5.5 mg in October, down from the September volume of 24.9 mg. Year-to-date U.S. imports of ethanol hit 63.2 mg—lagging behind last year’s cumulative volume at this point. The U.S. has now realized its 26th month as a net exporter.

Meanwhile, exports of the animal feed ethanol by-product, distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), were down for the third straight month after hitting record highs in July, falling 7 percent to 1.03 million metric tons (mt), still considered a substantial number. While there was a 24 percent drop in exports of DDGS to China, Mexico (164,314 mt, or 16 percent), Viet Nam (88,305 mt, or 9 percent), Canada (52,623 mt), Turkey (52,498 mt) and South Korea (46,159 mt) all saw increases.

Army Turning Artillery Shells into Biodiesel

armyalgae1You’ve heard about pounding swords into plowshares. Well, how about making bombs into biodiesel? This article from the U.S. Army says that’s the idea behind Army researchers, in concert with biofuel maker Algenol Biotech LLC, using algae to turn the propellant in artillery rounds into biodiesel.

“Because the algae-based process uses photosynthesis, it actually consumes carbon dioxide,” said Pamela Sheehan, project officer and principle investigator for the M6 recycling research program at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, at Picatinny Arsenal.

“So not only is the process not carbon-dioxide generating, it goes beyond being carbon neutral to a carbon-dioxide consumer,” she said. Eliminating the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during destruction of propellant helps the Army reduce its carbon footprint and take action against climate change.

When circumstances allow it, the military recycles metal parts during the demilitarization processes.

However, the algae-based demilitarization method would allow the Army to recycle nitrogen, which is present in all propellants and explosives.

“We’ve conceptualized a process to develop a capability to extract and conserve that nitrogen using a hydrolysis process,” Sheehan said. Hydrolysis is a chemical process of decomposition.

“The nitrogen then is in the form of nitrite and nitrate, and we want to use that nitrogen to grow algae in a reactor. The algae utilizing the nitrogen will grow, and as they grow will produce ethanol, and an oil product that can later be refined into diesel fuel,” she said.

Officials also point out that the process will provide a source of revenue from what is usually a costly, waste-stream process.

Final #RFS Numbers Disappoint @EthanolRFA

rfalogo1The Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule for volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) “puts the future of biofuels and climate policy in the hands of the oil industry,” according to Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen.

“Let’s give EPA props, I guess, for recognizing that gasoline demand is increasing and that they needed to increase those numbers accordingly,” said Dinneen. “But they didn’t change anything with respect to the methodology … they still reduced the numbers from the statutory levels and embraced the notion of the blend wall … they are effectively turning the nation’s renewable energy program over to the oil companies.”

Dinneen says the ethanol industry will be evaluating its options when it comes to taking EPA to court over the final rule. “What EPA has done here is a dramatic departure from a program that was working,” he said. “I believe when we finish our review of the final rule that we will want to stand up for the program, stand up for consumers, stand up for carbon reduction, stand up for rural America and put this program back where it belongs.”

With President Obama in Paris this week for the COP21 climate change summit, Dinneen considers today’s announcement ironic. “How in the world can the president speak with any credibility on climate change when he is ripping the guts out of a climate change program in his own backyard?” Dinneen asked.

Listen to interview here: Interview with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen on final RFS rule