Cape Wind Green Light Big for Offshore Wind Industry

A wind energy project off the Massachusetts has gotten the federal government’s OK to move forward … and it’s seen as a major victory for the offshore wind energy industry in this country.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will allow the 130-turbine Cape Wind project, the nation’s first offshore wind farm, to be built. This story from CNN says the ruling will have a major impact for other offshore wind projects:

“The United States is leading a clean energy revolution that is reshaping our future,” Salazar told reporters in Boston. “Cape Wind is an opening of a new chapter in that future, and we are all part of that history.”

“Cape Wind will be the nation’s first offshore wind farm, supplying clean power to homes and businesses in Massachusetts, plus creating good jobs here in America,” he said. “This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast.”

The Cape Wind project has been in the works for nine years, tied up while people, such as the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, argued the turbines … miles offshore … would ruin the view from their mansions.

But don’t expect this decision to be the final word on the wind farm. The opposition is vowing to continue the fight, and those millionaires and billionaires have some mighty deep pockets.

Making the Case for Biodiesel to Obama in 90 Seconds

Just 90 seconds … a short minute and a half … that’s the amount of time that a biodiesel advocate had to make the case for the green fuel to the President of the United States.

When Pres. Obama made the trip to Iowa yesterday to talk about wind turbines, Brad Albin, Vice President at Renewable Energy Group and Secretary of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, pressed upon the President the urgency of the need for the reinstatement and retroactivity of the biodiesel tax credit:

“I shook his hand and told him that we’re losing jobs as we stand here, which seemed to get his attention,” explained Albin, who had been sitting in the second row. “I told him about plants idling and that more than 90 percent of manufacturing staff at U.S. biodiesel plants have been laid off as a result of the tax credit lapse.”

Obama acknowledged his biodiesel tax credit updates are coming through USDA Secretary Vilsack. The President continued to listen as I explained that for 20 years Americans have worked to meet the challenge of increasing energy independence; that farmers and families have invested billions, and now companies are bankrupt or bleeding to death.

“Just like some in the ethanol industry, our fear is that major, multi-national petroleum companies are just waiting to scoop up the biodiesel industry’s capacity, returning cents on the dollar to farmer investors,” Albin said to the President.

Albin further explained that the five month lapse of the tax credit could not have come at a worse time as the Renewable Fuels Standard goes into effect July 1, 2010.

“We’re going to die without this tax credit,” Albin added even after the President’s assurances. The President responded: we won’t let you die.

Albin said he continued to press his case and asked as he walked away if Obama would commit to the tax credit being in place by the end of May. He says the President turned back to him and said, “I’m the President and I promise I’ll do whatever I can.” Let’s see what that means.

Obama Visits Iowa Wind Turbine Plant, Off to Missouri Ethanol Plant

President Barack Obama visited a wind turbine plant in Iowa today, part of his Midwest tour that will also take him to a northern Missouri ethanol plant (watch for Chuck’s coverage on this Web site and follow him on his Twitter account @AgriBlogger).

The Environment News Service reports
Obama got to see up close some of Siemens Energy’s expanded wind turbine blade factory at Fort Madison, Iowa, during his “Washington to Main Street” tour:

“So you’re manufacturing blades for some of the most advanced wind turbines in the world; each one as tall as Air Force One is long; each is capable of generating enough power for hundreds of homes, just by harnessing the wind,” Obama said. “So what’s going on here, what each of the employees of Siemens are involved with, is helping stake America’s claim on a clean-energy future.”

Siemens, a global company based in Germany, built the wind turbine factory three years ago on the site of a closed tractor-trailer manufacturing business.

Today, the turbine factory employs more than 600 workers, almost two-thirds of whom were previously unemployed, and supports more than 350 other jobs throughout Lee County.

The article goes on to say that the Siemens plant was able to use $3.5 million in Stimulus Bucks to expand the plant.

As I mentioned earlier, Chuck will be following the president tomorrow (Wednesday) as he visits the POET Biorefining ethanol plant in Macon, Missouri.

Ethanol Leaders Take to the Hill

Renewable Fuels Association capitolAmerica’s ethanol industry is taking its message to Capitol Hill this week with a variety of key issues to discuss. Extending key tax incentives for all forms of ethanol, expanding the market through higher ethanol blends, and increasing the production of flexible fuel vehicles are all topics of discussion during the visit. Members of the Renewable Fuels Association are scheduled to meet with Congressional office members from a dozen states including Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and Iowa.

“No one advocates better on behalf of American ethanol then the men and women directly responsible for its production,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “These industry leaders are at the forefront of creating jobs and economic opportunity in rural America while simultaneously providing part of the solution to our nation’s energy and environmental challenges.”

The meetings come as President Barack Obama is making stops in the Midwest this week, including a visit to a Missouri ethanol plant on Wednesday.

Obama to Visit Ethanol Plant

VeraSun ObamaThe White House has confirmed that President Obama will be visiting a Missouri ethanol plant this week. It will mark the first time Obama has visited a working ethanol biorefinery, although he was the guest speaker at the ribbon cutting of the now-bankrupt VeraSun plant in Charles City, Iowa when he was a presidential candidate.

poet maconAccording to the White House, Obama will tour POET Biorefining in Macon, Mo. and “talk to workers about what they are experiencing during these tough economic times and share ideas for rebuilding our economy in the long term.” The president is scheduled to “tour a local farm and visit with the family who operates the farm” in Missouri. The visits are part of what the administration calls the president’s “Main Street Tour,” but neither event will be open to the public. Tickets are being distributed for a speech that evening in Quincy, Ill.

Missouri Biodiesel Plants Suffer from Budget Cuts

Biodiesel producers in Missouri might be feeling like they’re the victims of insult added to injury. Not only have they lost the federal $1-a-gallon federal tax credit, but now, the St. Joseph News-Press reports they are the latest victims of state budget cuts:

Gov. Jay Nixon proposed reducing $4 million, or 16 percent, of the state subsidies for biodiesel plants as part of $45 million in budget cuts.

The Missouri Soybean Association said cuts to the producer’s incentive fund will make it harder for Missouri to capitalize on a national biodiesel standard, which mandates increased biodiesel use beginning July 1.

“It definitely is concerning,” said J.P. Dunn of the Missouri Soybean Association. “We could have an edge if we are fully funded.”

Ironically, Missouri is home to the headquarters of the National Biodiesel Board. The announcement came as the state was preparing to celebrate Earth Day.

Nebraska Holds FFV Awareness Campaign

Tomorrow will kick of the National Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV) Awareness Campaign across the state of Nebraska. The educational campaign is a joint project of the Clean Fuels Fuondation, the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, the Nebraska Ethanol Board, and others who support the utilization of E85 compatible vehicles.

As reported in a press release from the Clean Fuels Foundation, Todd Sneller, Administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, said “We are pleased to combine our ongoing efforts here in Nebraska with the nationwide program of the FFV Awareness Campaign. High ethanol blends like E85 can open up new markets for ethanol but we need to make sure drivers know they can use these fuels and where they can purchase them.” Sneller said several national surveys indicate that as many as 90% of the owners of FFVs either are not aware their vehicles have this capability or have never used ethanol blends. “The FFV campaign is about consumer awareness and driver education. We are going to begin with the drivers of the 87,000 FFVs on the roads of Nebraska immediately. There is no better time to start this campaign than on Earth Day.”

New state road signs will indicate if a station has E85 available and information on E85 and FFVs will be available at rest stops along Nebraska highways.

Douglas A. Durante, Director of the Clean Fuels Foundation, said the campaign is critical if the US is to achieve the benefits of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) that is current law. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated the RFS can reduce pollution, increase farm income, lower fuel costs to consumers, and provide a host of other benefits, but only if we can actually use the fuel the program requires. Once we maximize the use of low level blends in conventional vehicles we must turn to FFVs.”

The National FFV Awareness Campaign is also promoting the use of higher ethanol blends in Florida and other states.

House Ag Chair Expects 15 Percent Ethanol by August

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) expects the Environmental Protection Agency to approve 15 percent ethanol blends for regular gasoline by August.

According to a story from Hoosier Ag Today, Peterson said in an interview that it is taking a longer time to get approval than he thinks is necessary. “Now, we’re thinking we might get a decision in August. I think we’re going to get a positive decision, everything I can tell,” he said.

Peterson said he discussed the issue with one of the major car companies last week. “They don’t see too many problems with E-15. They do have more problems when you start getting to E-20 and E-25,” he said.

The chairman does expect some pump labeling requirements if EPA approves E-15, including warnings for older vehicles and small engines, but says a favorable decision will be “very significant” for the future of biofuels.

Senate Bill Would Extend Ethanol Tax Incentives

A bill has been introduced in the Senate to extend tax incentives for ethanol set to expire at the end of this year.

Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) introduced the bipartisan GREEN Jobs Act of 2010 that extends through 2015 the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), the offsetting tariff on foreign ethanol, the Small Producers Tax Credit, and the Cellulosic Ethanol Producer Tax Credit.

Grassley said the lapse of the separate tax credit for biodiesel, which expired at the end of 2009, has cost 29,000 clean-energy jobs and put 23,000 more at risk. “We can’t risk a repeat performance with ethanol, where 112,000 jobs are at stake.” Of the ethanol tariff, Grassley said, “the United States already provides generous duty-free access to imported ethanol under the Caribbean Basin Initiative, but the CBI cap has never once been fulfilled. In fact, last year, only 25 percent of it was even used by Brazil and other countries.”

Conrad“Our country is in serious danger because of skyrocketing energy costs,” said Sen. Conrad. “This growing crisis demands urgent action. We must be committed to coming together in a bipartisan way to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, while aggressively pursuing alternative sources of energy such as biofuels. Extending these tax credits is a step in the right direction.”

Growth EnergyThe ethanol industry praised the Senate action. “Extending these measures will ensure job growth and economic development across the entire country—all while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and cleaning our skies,” Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said. “If we let the tariff and VEETC expire, it would drain both hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars right out of our economy.”

Renewable Fuels Association Logo“Tax incentives aiding the expansion of America’s ethanol industry are sound public policies by any economic, environmental or energy measure,” said Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. “Domestic ethanol use is lowering the price of gasoline, reducing imports of foreign oil, and helping stabilize and reinvigorate rural economies all across the country.”

ACE“The American people directly benefit from ethanol through the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs and by saving money on a clean, renewable product at the pump,” said American Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. “If it is a priority to save these high-skill, high-wage jobs in the U.S. and provide consumers with affordable fuel, it is imperative that these ethanol tax credits are renewed this year, and we are committed to working with Congressional leaders to see that happen.”

The Senate bill mirrors bipartisan legislation that was introduced in the House in March by Reps. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., and John Shimkus, R-Ill.

Pickens Encourages Investment in American Energy

“When do we stop investing in OPEC and start investing in America?”

pickensThat’s the question that oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens asked at a House Ways and Means committee hearing Wednesday on “Energy Tax Incentives Driving the Green Job Economy.” Pickens told the panel that he’s for “anything that’s American” when it comes to energy -including wind, coal, solar, hydro, nuclear, geo-thermal, ethanol, propane, or natural gas.

The straight-talking Texan and chairman of BP Capital Management addressed those who discourage tax incentives for renewable energy on the basis of letting the free market work. “If you think OPEC is a free market, you’re a sap,” he said.

Pushing natural gas as an alternative, Pickens said that skeptics say there is no natural gas fueling infrastructure. “If you create the market, the private sector will build it,” he said. “Can you imagine what would have happened if we had told Henry Ford, forget about building the Model T, there’s no filling stations?”

Pickens strongly stressed the need for America to develop an energy plan now. “I’m running out of time, I’m 82 years old next month, and I’ve got to get an energy plan fixed for America because we cannot leave this to generations in the future,” noting his 13 children and grandchildren.

Pickens’ whole opening statement is well worth watching here on the Ways and Means Committee website.