UAI: EPA Emissions Model on Ethanol Flawed

UAIEPA1A group representing ethanol and air quality interests says the government’s emissions model regarding ethanol is flawed. The Urban Air Initiative filed documents with the U.S District Court in Washington, D.C., that show the model used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to measure tailpipe emissions inaccurately blames ethanol for increased air pollution, jeopardizing any hope for ethanol expansion.

The written arguments were filed as part of an ongoing legal challenge by the Urban Air Initiative, Energy Future Coalition, the State of Kansas and the State of Nebraska. These groups are asking that the EPA suspend its use of the Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES) model based on faulty and incomplete data. States are required to use this model to demonstrate compliance with federal air quality standards and would effectively be prohibited from using more ethanol under this model.

The Urban Air Initiative hired a certified fuels modeling consulting firm to run the MOVES model by adding various levels of ethanol to gasoline. But due to faulty fuel blending in the model, ethanol blends are shown to increase most of the pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act, when in fact the opposite is true when using fuels currently marketed to consumers.

“The consultant confirmed our fears, which was that this model is biased against ethanol and blocks the goal of Urban Air Initiative to reduce toxic emissions and promote a cleaner fuel for today and future generations,” said UAI President Dave VanderGriend. “We have clear data to support that when simply adding ethanol to gasoline, a better fuel is created with fewer toxic emissions. However, the calculations in the MOVES model were primarily directed by oil interests and do not reflect what happens in the real world.”

The new data submitted to the court follows a series of steps the plaintiffs have taken during the past year, including a direct appeal to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to suspend the model.

Despite Fewer Acres, Plenty of Corn for Ethanol

NCGA-Logo-3The number of acres corn planted is down this year. But the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) says there’s plenty of the crop for ethanol and all the other uses from the grain. Citing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Acreage report, NCGA says total corn planting in the United States totals 88.9 million acres, the lowest planted acreage since 2010 but the sixth-largest U.S. corn acreage planted since 1944.

“Corn farmers produced an abundance in 2014 that resulted in a large carry over into this year,” National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling said. “While planted acreage has decreased as farmers in many parts of the country face unrelentingly wet conditions, U.S. farmers have steadily increased our ability to grow more corn on every acre. Americans can rest assured that we will be able to meet all needs, be they for food, fuel or fiber, for years to come.”

USDA projects 13.5 billion acres of corn to be harvested this fall.

Franklin Orr Shares Optimism for Bioenergy

Franklin OrrDr. Franklin Orr, Under Secretary for Science and Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, provided the keynote address at the recent BioEnergy 2015 Conference which took place in Washington, D.C. In his role, Dr. Orr is the principal advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary on clean energy technologies and science and energy research initiatives.

“If there is any technology that we are working on that illustrates the facets of innovation that we are trying to foster, it’s bioenergy. It goes from the fundamental science side of the house, to development, to demonstration and deployment. And we have lots of activities going on in all these areas.”

Dr. Orr said he truly believes that biofuels are a very important part of America’s energy and economic future. He added that this is clear when you look at the global context of energy.

He mentioned a few examples which indicate broader global challenges that we are going to face. “Energy security is one of those, creating good paying jobs in the United States is very important for us and of course reducing the emissions that lead to climate change.” Dr. Orr admits these are all big challenges, but stresses that biofuels can help in each of these measures.

Listen to Dr. Franklin Orr’s complete remarks to learn more about the future role of biofuels when it comes to science and energy across the United States: Franklin Orr's Remarks

View the 2015 BioEnergy 2015 photo album. 

Governors Tell EPA the #RFSWorks

The governors of Iowa and Missouri both spoke out in bipartisan support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) during a hearing and rally Thursday in Kansas City.

rfs-hearing-branstadIowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad drew applause several times during his testimony at the public hearing on EPA’s proposed volume obligations under the RFS. “We are pleased to be here and get outside the Beltway where Big Oil’s army of well-paid lobbyists seem to have so much undue influence,” said Branstad to applause. While Branstad acknowledged the positive changes EPA made in the proposal for biodiesel, when it comes to ethanol “the agency seems to have bought Big Oil’s faulty arguments hook, line, and sinker.”

rally-nixon“By setting the RFS below the Congressional targets, the EPA caps the amount that will be produced,” said Missouri Democrat Governor Jay Nixon. “It is counter intuitive for the agency charged with enforcing the clean air laws to impose a defacto limit on ethanol, a product which so clearly emits fewer greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

“Quite frankly, I’m not seeing how it’s going to hurt our economy to produce cheaper, better, cleaner fuel, and it’s certainly not going to hurt our environment,” said Nixon.

Both governors went from the hearing across the street to a Rally for Rural America to support the RFS and both had their state agriculture directors with them as well. Listen to or download their testimony and rally speeches below.

Iowa and Missouri Governors at EPA Hearing IA and MO governors and ag directors 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

Minnesota Gov Signs E15 Dispenser Bill

MnBiofuelsMinnesota’s governor has signed into law a measure that will help fuel retailers sell the 15 percent blend of ethanol, E15. This news release from the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association says the new law kicks in on July 1 and will provide funds for the retailers to convert their pumps to handle the higher blend.

The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association played a key role in getting the E15 Dispenser Bill included in the Agriculture and Environment bill and generated support for it from members of the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives.

Under the bill, $500,000 in grants will be disbursed over a two-year period to help fuel retailers make simple upgrades to their fuel dispensers so that they can offer E15.

These upgrades include simple calibrations, meters, valve assembles, seals, hanging hardware and in some limited cases, a new dispenser.

The measure is part of a larger piece of legislation that has the state setting a goal to reduce GHG emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. E15 produces fewer GHG emissions and could save the state 358,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, the equivalent of removing 75,368 cars from the road.

EPA Officials Visit Kansas Ethanol Plant

EPA officials visit East Kansas Agri-Energy plant

EPA officials visit East Kansas Agri-Energy plant

In advance of a public hearing in Kansas City on the proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials visited East Kansas Agri-Energy (EKAE) in Garnett, Kansas Wednesday.

Federal and regional EPA personnel toured the 45 million gallon per year corn ethanol plant, examined progress on EKAE’s co-located renewable diesel project, and discussed the importance of the RFS with plant management and local investors. EPA also hand-delivered a letter to EKAE approving the company’s efficient producer pathway petition, which certifies that the company’s ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 27.2 percent compared to petroleum.

“Today’s event provided an excellent opportunity for key EPA officials to see firsthand the ethanol industry’s innovation and ingenuity,” said Jeff Oestmann, CEO of EKAE. “We were honored to host EPA, and we thank them for spending a few hours with us to learn more about the ethanol process, renewable diesel, and the importance of the biofuels industry to the Garnett community. We had a very productive discussion and hope they left here with a new appreciation for both the challenges and opportunities facing ethanol producers today.”

EKAE, which was founded by local farmers and business leaders, produced its first gallon of ethanol one month before the original RFS was adopted in 2005. In 2014, the company broke ground on a bolt-on renewable diesel facility, which will convert the corn distillers oil already produced at the plant into low-carbon advanced biofuel.

RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper, who also attended the tour, said EKAE is proof that the RFS is working. “EKAE is an excellent example of how the RFS provided the stability needed for first-generation biofuels like corn ethanol to succeed and flourish, then delivered the investment certainty required to develop second-generation biofuels like renewable diesel from corn distillers oil,” he said.

Both Oestmann and Cooper will be testifying today at the EPA hearing in Kansas City, along with more than 250 other industry stakeholders.

Listen to an interview with Oestmann and Cooper about the plant tour and hearing here: Interview with Jeff Oestmann, EKAE and Geoff Cooper, RFA

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

Iowa Biodiesel Users Soon to Save on Tax

IBBBiodiesel users in Iowa will soon be saving some money on their gas tax. The Iowa Biodiesel Board says that as of July 1, diesel blended with at least 11 percent biodiesel (B11) will enjoy a tax exemption of 3 cents a gallon compared to regular diesel.

“This state policy represents another link in the chain that secures Iowa’s energy and economic future,” said Grant Kimberley, executive director of IBB. “This incentive, along with other state policies that encourage biodiesel production and use, shores up support for a fuel that delivers jobs, diversifies our fuel supply and reduces greenhouse gases.”

Prior to 2015, the tax for diesel was $0.225 a gallon. The new diesel tax, already in effect, is $0.325 a gallon. Users of B11 or higher will now pay tax of just $0.295 a gallon.

Kimberley added that this won’t automatically mean B11 is less expensive at the pump than diesel, but: “All of the pro-biodiesel policies in Iowa working together, plus federal programs that encourage energy independence, add up,” he said. “This is likely to make B11 pretty competitive at the pump.”

Corn Growers to Protest EPA’s Ethanol Cuts

rallyforruralamerica1Corn farmers are going to make their voice heard on the Obama Administration’s cuts to ethanol. The National Corn Growers Association says producers from more than a dozen states are expected to turn out at a public hearing and rally in Kansas City, Kansas, this Thursday, protesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to slash nearly 4 billion gallons of corn ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard through 2016.

“Last time, we were very clear to EPA about what we wanted,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling. “It is simple: EPA should follow the statute. For farmers and others in rural America, this new EPA proposal means low corn prices and ethanol plant and industry cutbacks. And for everyone, it means higher gas prices and dirtier air.”

All farmers who can make the trip are encouraged to attend the hearing and public rally, with free bus transportation provided from several points across four states – Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. The buses are scheduled so growers can depart and return the same day, and free food and refreshments will be provided.

A rally in conjunction with the public hearing will kick off at 11:30 a.m. at nearby Huron Park, with several prominent agriculture, business and political leaders talking about the importance of renewable fuels for rural America.

Senate Committee Grills EPA Official on RFS

hearing-mccabeEnvironmental Protection Agency Acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe was the lone witness in a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing Thursday on “Re-examining EPA’s Management of the Renewable Fuel Standard Program.”

Committee chairman James Lankford (R-OK), who favors repealing the RFS, grilled McCabe over the “aspirational” goal of breaching the blend wall and the potential that volumes of cellulosic ethanol targets under law will have to be “reset” by the EPA because not enough is being produced.

Committee Ranking Member Heidi Heitkamp, who is a strong supporter of the RFS, was more concerned that the volume obligations for biofuels proposed by EPA “ignore Congressional intent and reduces Congressionally-mandated blend volumes, citing availability of distribution capacity.”

McCabe continued to defend the EPA’s recently proposed volume obligations for 2014, 2015 and 2016 as “ambitious but responsible” in the face of criticism from both sides of the issue.

Schroeder to Participate in Bioenergy 2015

bio2015Domestic Fuel’s own Joanna Schroeder will be part of next week’s U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) eighth annual conference “Bioenergy 2015: Opportunities in a Changing Energy Landscape.” She’ll be in Washington, D.C., moderating the session titled, “Reaching Your Stakeholders: Effectively Engaging and Educating Key Audiences,” on the second day of the June 23-24 conference.

This session focuses on demonstrated communication strategies and tactics to engage and educate key audiences—such as the general public, communities, policy makers, and investors—on bioenergy. Panelists, through a facilitated discussion, will provide attendees with unique insights, success stories, and best practices and lessons learned that improved public perception of bioenergy at local, regional, and national levels.

About 600 participants are expected to attend the conference, including key stakeholders from the bioenergy industry, Congress, national laboratories, academia, and the financial community. Some of the other issues they’ll discuss include:

– Impact of changing oil prices
– Vehicle/fuels co-optimization
– Future of the Renewable Fuel Standard
– Environmental benefits of biofuels
– Innovative technologies and emerging pathways
– U.S. manufacturing in a global marketplace.

Check out the full agenda here.