E15 Bill Introduced in the House

A bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House yesterday as a companion to the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015 in the Senate.

rod-blumCongressman Rod Blum (R-IA), along with Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO), Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), and Congressman David Young (R-IA) are co-sponsoring the House legislation, which removes the burdensome restrictions placed on the ethanol marketplace by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), further encourages manufacturers and producers to develop new technologies, and equalizes the tax between liquid natural gas (LNG) and diesel fuel.

“It is time for the EPA to stop denying American consumers access to new fuels in the marketplace,” said Rep. Blum. “This bill from Senators Paul and Grassley reduces unnecessary red tape while promoting competition, innovation, and fairness in the energy marketplace, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to move this measure forward.”

The bill requires EPA to correct the disparity regarding Reid Vapor Pressure, which measures the evaporation rate of gasoline, in ethanol blends. E10 blends have a waiver allowing year-round sales throughout the country, but EPA has refused to grant E15 the same waiver meaning E15 can only be sold from June 1 to September 15 in the majority of the country. If the bill passes, more retailers would be expected to offer E15.

“Consumers should have year-round access to higher ethanol blends,” said National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling. “This is the single largest regulatory hurdle standing in the way. We urge both the House and the Senate to step up, remove this hurdle, and expand consumer choice.”

Marine Base Goes Green with Ethanol, Biodiesel

marinebiodiesel1Marines in Southern California are going a bit greener, as initiatives at one base are converting much of the vehicles used to run on ethanol, biodiesel and other alternative fuels. This article from DVIDS says Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, is trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by four percent in the next two years, to 15 percent in the next six years, reaching a target of 30 percent by 2025.

“We are converting from gasoline and diesel, to compressed natural gas, liquid propane, ethanol, biodiesel, and electric,” [Tim Hutzley, fleet manager at Southwest Regional Fleet Transportation, Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow] said. Those conversions have been ongoing, with some of the new technologies working well, and others taking time for the industry to work out the problems. For vehicles that can’t be retrofitted to accept alternative fuels, buying vehicles made to run on more efficient fuels is one of the major ways to meet the target of reducing petroleum-based fuels.

Hutzley added, “Our requirement for 2025 is to have 20 percent of the 127 over-the-road vehicles (that can operate outside the base) as hybrids. And replace the rest when possible with smaller better, technologically advanced vehicles.”

According to Hutzley, more than half of the base’s gasoline type vehicles run on E-85 fuel, meaning 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, which cost $3.18 a gallon compared to unleaded gasoline at $3.21. California’s consumer summer blend unleaded gasoline has only 10 percent ethanol.

“The upside,” he said, “is we are cutting our dependence on foreign oil as well as cutting our greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main reasons for using alternative fuels.”

Most diesel vehicles on base are running with a blend of 20 percent biodiesel. Biodiesel is typically made from corn, but can also be distilled from other vegetable and animal fats as well as algae, said Hutzley.

Officials add that biofuels are renewable, produced in the U.S., and often cheaper.

NFU Disturbed by Renewable Energy Funding Cuts

nfu_logo1The National Farmers Union (NFU) is expressing its disappointment in proposed cuts to federal spending on renewable energy. NFU President Roger Johnson released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Water spending subcommittee’s voted to reduce funds for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“Renewable energy and energy efficiency are key to building climate resilience, and many of our rural communities experience much-needed reinvestment from renewable energy development.” Johnson said. “Congress should increase, not cut, funds for renewable energy.”

Johnson noted that America’s family farmers and ranchers are already impacted by increased weather volatility related to the changing climate, including fewer workable days, increased potential for soil erosion, and increased crop insurance claims, and without support for renewables, they may have to brace for additional negative consequences.

“Other consequences, including fluctuating access to water resources and increased pest and weed pressure, will impact our efforts to produce sufficient food, fuel and fiber,” Johnson noted. “Renewable energy will also, in the long term, offer protection against volatile rates and contribute to our nation’s energy independence.”

House E15 Waiver Bill Introduced

adrian-smithCongressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) has introduced legislation to expand the existing waiver of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations regarding Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of motor vehicle fuel to include 15% ethanol blended gasoline (E15) in addition to E10.

EPA regulations currently curtail retail sales of E15 during the summer months. “Ethanol provides consumers in Nebraska and across America with a competitive, clean, domestically-produced alternative,” Smith said. “However, burdensome EPA regulations are restricting consumers’ options at the fuel pump.

EPA granted a waiver for E10 in 1990 and Smith’s bill would extend this waiver to also include E15.

“Though E10 received a waiver decades ago, the same regulatory relief has not yet been extended to E15,” said Smith. “We must pursue an all-of-the-above energy policy, which includes ethanol and other renewable fuels, by reducing red tape and encouraging innovation in the energy marketplace.”

“We applaud this effort by Congressman Smith to establish greater consumer choice and to remove a major hurdle preventing consumers the opportunity to purchase higher blends such as E15,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “We are hopeful that Congressman Smith’s legislative efforts are successful in granting this much needed waiver to overcome the single largest regulatory hurdle to ensuring consumers have access to higher blends such as E15.”

The legislation is similar to a bill introduced earlier this month in the Senate by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rand Paul (R-KY).

Motor Clubs Make Pitch for E15

ace-flyin-15-hammondThe management of both the Association Motor Club Marketing (AMCM) and the Travelers Motor Club are making their pitch for the higher blend of ethanol known as E15. The American Coalition for Ethanol quotes AMCM Owner Gene Hammond from a blog post he wrote shortly after taking part on the “Biofuels Beltway March” fly-in (and speaking with Domestic Fuel), where he was part of ethanol advocates who visited 17 congressional offices in Washington, D.C.

Hammond writes: “That E15 hasn’t caused any damage to cars is no surprise to us, because during our entire time in the motor club business, we’ve never had a complaint about any blend of ethanol in gasoline, period.”

“But the critics and the E15 ghost stories haven’t gone away, so we did our part recently by meeting with Members of Congress about what we’ve seen, and more importantly what we haven’t seen, from the usage of E15 by our motor club members. If the anti-E15 predictions and warnings Congress has heard for the last two years were true, the people who had those problems would be well known to you by now.

But the charges aren’t true. We let Congress know how safe this fuel is. We don’t think motorists should be forced to use any fuel, but what the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) does is give every driver in the United States the option to buy a quality American made product like the E15 fuel blend if they choose.

More fuel choices mean more competition and that means our members save at the pump.”

Hammond’s entire blog post is available here.

ARF Challenges Confirmed Candidates

ARF-LogoThe America’s Renewable Future campaign is challenging the two confirmed Republican presidential candidates to take a stand for renewable fuels.

In a letter to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has been forthcoming about his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), ARF questioned his recent reported comment that the oil industry “doesn’t get subsidized.” The letter, with the message that “Oil Subsidies Are Real,” details $165 billion in subsidies and tax breaks the oil industry is poised to receive over the next ten years.

With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officially declaring his candidacy this week, ARF recognized his introduction of the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act as “a step in the right direction” but urged him to commit to supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Sen. Paul has an opportunity to stand up for a commonsense, bipartisan policy that provides access to the marketplace for a clean, domestic alternative to foreign oil and we hope that he will,” said the campaign in a statement.

Another potential presidential candidate, Donald Trump, was in Iowa on Wednesday and took the time to meet with ARF co-chair Annette Sweeney “to discuss the importance of the ‪#‎RFS‬ to America and our rural communities.”

America’s Renewable Future is an Iowa-based coalition formed with the goal of educating presidential candidates about the RFS and urging their support.

Phoenix Energy Gets $4.9 Mil Grant for Biomass

phoenixenergyA California company has received a $4.9 million grant to build one of the first forest-sourced biomass gasification plants. Phoenix Energy‘s joint venture, North Fork Community Power’s project, received the money from the California Energy Commission to build the plant, as well as funding research into the emerging field of forest biomass use.

The plant will utilize local forest biomass sustainably sourced from restoration and fuel reduction activities on local forest lands, including the Sierra National Forest. The biomass will be used to make electricity, heat and biochar – a solid carbon byproduct that is used as a soil conditioner and filter media. The project will also be one of the first projects to use forest-based fuel under California’s new SB 1122 bioenergy law.

“This project is a fantastic community story and an example of what can be accomplished with a robust a public/private partnership,” said Phoenix Energy CEO, Gregory Stangl. “In the North Fork community, a sawmill was the main employer for years, and local jobs evaporated when it closed down in the 1990’s. This facility will not only make an impact on reducing fire danger and stopping wasteful ‘pile and burn’ disposal of excess forest material, but will bring back permanent jobs to a town where the forest economy used to provide them. California is littered with communities up and down the Sierra foothills with a similar story,” continued Stangl.

The plant will be built in phases with an initial 1 MW financed mainly by the California Energy Commission grant and private and community investors.

Can Rand Paul Pass the RFS Test?

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul officially threw his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, just a week after co-sponsoring the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015 with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. The legislation would allow 15% ethanol blends to be sold year round by requiring EPA to grant a Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) volatility waiver for E15 in the summer months.

paul-energy“The EPA’s onerous regulation of fuels is artificially limiting options for consumers and producers and preventing the adoption of new fuel options that could benefit our environment, our economy, and our energy security,” said Sen. Paul in a press release about the Act. “Through competition and consumer choice, my bill will free fuel producers and automobile manufacturers to innovate and bring new products to market that can lower costs to consumers, increase domestic energy production, and benefit the environment.”

The official candidate’s new campaign website says nothing specific about biofuels in the Energy section beyond “encouraging energy freedom, new technologies, and discoveries” but does mention support for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sen. Paul did not participate in the recent Iowa Ag Summit where potential candidates were asked specifically about their stance on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) but an aide last week confirmed that he is opposed to “the government telling consumers or businesses what type of fuel they must use or sell.”

“Sen. Paul supports removing regulatory barriers to the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels, which would likely have the effect of growing the use of these environmentally friendly fuels,” said the aide quoted in the National Journal.

Ethanol industry leaders have applauded Sen. Paul for his co-sponsorship of the E15 bill, but all say that support of the RFS is what they really want to see in a presidential candidate.

President Obama Announces Solar Efforts

obama-solarIn Utah on Friday, President Obama announced new growth efforts for the solar industry and support for veterans.

At Hill Air Force Base, Obama announced several actions, including a “Solar Ready Vets Program” to be launched by the Department of Energy in partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), at 10 military bases across the country, including at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, which has already taken leadership by installing solar panels onsite.

The Solar Ready Vets program will train transitioning military service personnel to enter the solar workforce by joining with SunShot’s Solar Instructor Training Network and leveraging the DOD’s Skillbridge transition authority authorized by Congress in 2012.

In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs is committing to working with DOE and State Approving Agencies to achieve approval for GI Bill funding for DOE’s Solar Ready Vets initiative. And the Department of Labor (DOL), will work with DOD to ensure that transitioning service members are made aware of solar workforce training programs available to them in their last months of military service.

Read more from the White House.

Farmers Union Concerned Over RFS Omission

nfu_logo1The National Farmers Union (NFU) is concerned that Pres. Obama has left the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) out of his plan to cut greenhouse gases. This news release from the group says NFU President Roger Johnson isn’t pleased about the omission in the president’s formal submission of a plan to the United Nations that would cut the United States’ greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.

“The RFS offers America a cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuel sector with its support for biofuels,” said Johnson. “The president is ignoring agriculture’s great potential to help the country cut GHG emissions and mitigate climate change by excluding the RFS from his plan.”

Johnson noted that climate change poses a great risk to agriculture. Family farmers and ranchers are willing and able to help build climate resiliency.

“America’s family farmers and ranchers are already feeling the impact of increased weather volatility, resulting in fewer workable field days, increased potential for soil erosion, and increased crop insurance claims,” said Johnson. “The RFS provides these farmers and ranchers with a tool to help the country cut GHG emissions and mitigate the climate change that directly impacts their livelihoods.”

Johnson says he is also concerned that the president’s plan did not include any other ways agriculture or rural communities can be involved in reducing GHG emissions.