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.

Biodiesel Producers on Capitol Hill

nbb-dc-15Nearly 120 biodiesel industry leaders from California to Florida are in Washington DC this week calling on lawmakers to push for a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) during the comment period for the recently released proposal from EPA.

“We want to show Congress that the RFS is working and that thousands of jobs are at stake in this pending EPA rule,” said Anne Steckel, National Biodiesel Board vice president of federal affairs. “We want lawmakers to see first-hand how these issues are playing out in their states and districts. The RFS is not some political football. It’s a successful policy that’s driving innovation, creating jobs and building competition in the fuels markets.”

The EPA recently released its draft RFS proposal that provides modest growth for biodiesel over several years. The proposal would increase the Biomass-based Diesel sector of the RFS by about 100 million gallons per year to 1.9 billion gallons in 2017.

“The proposal is a step in the right direction, and we appreciate the Administration’s efforts to strengthen and grow the RFS,” Steckel said. “However, there is plenty of room for improvement before it is finalized in November. We intend to make sure policy makers in Washington understand biodiesel’s full potential to help grow the economy and strengthen our energy security while sharply reducing pollution.”

Nebraska Governor Visits Novozymes

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts wrapped up his first agricultural trade mission this week with a visit to Novozymes world headquarters in Denmark, where a company tour showcased the production of unique enzymes and microbial products used in the animal nutrition, agriculture, and biofuels industries.

Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen welcomes Nebraska Gov. Ricketts

Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen welcomes Nebraska Gov. Ricketts

While at Novozymes, Gov. Ricketts and the United States Ambassador to Denmark hosted a roundtable on renewable fuels and bio-products where Nebraska delegates “showcased the dynamic interaction between the corn, cattle, and ethanol sectors and their important roles in Nebraska’s success in agriculture.”

Industry representatives presented U.S. market trends and regulations to the group, with a focus on co-products, revenue opportunities, and biorefinery developments. In addition to the governor, Nebraska roundtable participants included Department of Economic Development Director Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, KAAPA President and Nebraska Ethanol Board representative Paul Kenny, Green Plains Energy COO Jeff Briggs and Bret Wyant with American Laboratories. European company executives included representatives from Novozymes, Dong Energy, Leifmark, Renew Energy, DuPont, and the U.S. Embassy.

The Governor and mission members also met with Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen and Executive Vice Presidents of Business Development and Supply Operations Thomas Videbaek and Thomas Nagy to discuss business development and international expansion. Ricketts says the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was a concern as they discussed expansion plans in the United States. “With the EPA changing the rule, pulling the rug out from under our ethanol producers, by changing the RFS they’ve created uncertainty,” said Ricketts. “That uncertainty is impacting Novozymes as it’s impacting the rest of the industry.”

Novozymes opened its newest advanced manufacturing plant in Blair, Nebraska to make enzymes for biofuels production in 2012 in part because of strong policies like the RFS.

Listen to the governor’s summary of the trade trip here:Neb. Gov Pete Ricketts on trade trip wrap up

Nebraska Governor Talks Biofuels in Europe

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and ag delegation meet with officials in Brussels

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and ag delegation meet with officials in Brussels

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is on an agricultural trade mission trip to the European Union with stops in Italy, Belgium, and Denmark. The trade mission, being coordinated jointly by the Nebraska Departments of Agriculture and Economic Development, includes a number of representatives from the state’s agriculture and biofuels industry.

“As the number two ethanol producer in the country, we have a big interest in seeing what we can do with ethanol and one of the concerns in the industry is being able to export,” said Ricketts during a conference call with reporters on Friday from Brussels. “We’re just starting the conversion with regard to how we can expand that and export our ethanol into the European Union.”

In Brussels, the trade team met with executives from Ghent Port Company, TOTCO, Sygenta Brussels, and a consultant for Belgian Biodiesel Board to promote Nebraska’s biofuels industry and build relations between firms in Europe and the U.S.

Neb. Gov Pete Ricketts discusses biofuels in Europe

Corn Growers Urge Comments on RFS

PrintThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened the public comment period on its proposal to cut corn ethanol in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by nearly 4 billion gallons. That’s prompting the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) to urge farmers and their family and friends to email their opposition to this proposal as soon as possible, before the July 27 deadline.

“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.”

This link while allow you to send a quick email: Various draft comments are available to enable both farmers and their non-farmer friends to easily send personalized notes to the EPA.

What Food Safety Act Means for Ethanol Plants

few15-fsma-kellyThe Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011 and this summer the rulemaking for the new act might finally be complete. Because it includes safety of animal food as well as human food, ethanol plants that produce the co-product distillers grains for livestock feed are impacted.

Renewable Fuels Association Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis talked about what plants will need to do when FSMA becomes final during the 2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop. “One of the first things in the rule is Current Good Manufacturing Practices,” said Davis, who says that most plants are already ahead of the game in that area. “We have really nice manufacturing facilities, good housekeeping, good quality assurance … a lot of us were gifted what we would call a good manufacturing practice plant.”

The main impact that FSMA will have on ethanol plants is another layer of bureaucracy. “It’s going to be a written plan with constant updating, supervision of the plan, verification of the plan,” said Davis. “It’s going to be similar to other programs like air quality and process safety management – you’re going to write down what you’re going to do, you’re going to do what you wrote down, and you’re going to verify you did it.”

Davis says there were some changes already made in the rule as it has been developed and assuming it is finalized in its current form she thinks ethanol plants will be able to comply within the two year time frame given by the law. “This is an important program and we’re going to provide some guidance to help people comply,” said Davis.

Find out more about FSMA and ethanol plants in this interview. Interview with Kelly Davis, RFA

2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Coverage of the Fuel Ethanol Conference is sponsored by
Coverage of the Fuel Ethanol Conference is sponsored by Novozymes

Iowa RFA Praises State Legislature

irfaAs the Iowa Legislature wrapped up the 2015 legislative session last week, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) praised several key pieces of legislation that were passed to expand use of higher ethanol and biodiesel blends.

Before the gavel went down on the 86th General Assembly, Iowa lawmakers passed key legislation that allows E15 infrastructure investments to become eligible for Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure grants. Previously, the funds were only available for blender pumps and dispensers offering E85. Additionally, the Iowa legislature passed a bill that will establish a new grant program for fuel retailers to replace old underground storage tank (UST) equipment with new components that are UL listed to be fully compatible with E85.

“After a long, spirited session, we sincerely thank the Iowa Legislature for remaining committed to increasing the use and availability of higher ethanol and biodiesel blends,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “With an uphill climb for renewable fuels ahead in terms of federal policy, forward-thinking state initiatives are a must to continue to build upon the successes of Iowa’s nation-leading renewable fuels industry.”

Earlier in the session, the Iowa Legislature included a 3-cent per gallon differential tax rate for B11 and higher biodiesel blends in its road infrastructure legislation. Iowa RFA says this provision, which takes effect for five years on July 1, will help encourage the increased use and availability of higher biodiesel blends.

E15 Goes on Summer Vacation – Again

Ankeny-MagRd1On the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) cutting of the amount of ethanol required to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, the agency’s inaction on another front means 15% ethanol blended fuel is going on summer vacation again as the government forces retailers in many areas to needlessly restrict E15 sales to flex-fuel vehicles (FFV) only from June 1 through September 15.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw calls June 1 Petroleum Monopoly Day. “Iowans want to buy E15 and retailers want to sell it, but the EPA has yet again put the power in the hands of Big Oil to restrict the option of E15,” said Shaw. “This blatant market manipulation is proof positive that we need a strong RFS to crack the petroleum monopoly.”

“EPA continues to refuse to treat E10 and E15 the same during the summer. As a result, EPA prevents consumers from purchasing a cleaner-burning, lower-cost fuel and thereby actually helps buttress the artificial ‘blend wall’ that Congress has directed them to tear down,” Shaw added. “It’s almost comical that for three and a half months a year, EPA hands the fuel market over to Big Oil resulting in higher prices, more smog forming emissions, and more carbon emissions. How does that make sense?”

EPA has refused to equalize the vapor pressure regulations for E10 and E15 during the summer driving season, running from June 1 through September 15. This allows the petroleum industry to provide Iowa wholesale suppliers and retailers with only the E10 blendstock, cutting E15 out of the market. Ironically, according to Iowa RFA, adding the extra five percent ethanol to summertime E10 actually lowers the vapor pressure and reduces evaporative and tailpipe emissions.

Renewables Hit Highest Levels Since 1930s

Consumption of renewable energy sources hit the highest levels in 80 years. This report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says renewables accounted for 9.8 percent of total domestic energy consumption in 2014, the highest renewable energy share since the 1930s, when wood was a much larger contributor to the domestic energy supply.

EIA 28may

Renewable energy use grew an average of 5% per year over 2001-2014 from its most recent low in 2001. The increase over the past 14 years was in part because of growing use of wind, solar, and biofuels. Wind energy grew from 70 trillion Btu in 2001 to more than 1,700 trillion Btu in 2014. During the same period, solar energy (solar thermal and photovoltaic) grew from 64 trillion Btu to 427 trillion Btu, and the use of biomass for the production of biofuels grew from 253 trillion Btu to 2,068 trillion Btu. Hydroelectricity was the largest source of renewable energy in 2014, but hydro consumption has decreased from higher levels in the mid-to-late 1990s. Wood remained the second-largest renewable energy source, with recent growth driven in part by demand for wood pellets.

In 2014, slightly more than half of all renewable energy was used to generate electricity. Within the electric power sector, renewable energy accounted for 13% of energy consumed, higher than its consumption share in any other sector.

The industrial sector used 24% of the nation’s renewable energy in 2014. Nearly all of that renewable energy was biomass, which included wood, waste, and biofuels used in manufacturing processes as well as in the production of heat and power. The production of biofuels results in energy losses and co-products, which are also included in industrial consumption of renewables.

EIA says more wood for home heating and more solar panel systems are the main contributors to increasing renewable energy consumption in residential buildings and, to a lesser extent, in commercial buildings.