Levin, Baucus Put Biodiesel Credit in Unemployment Bill

Legislation that would reinstate the federal $1-a-gallon tax credit for biodiesel has been attached to a new bill would extend unemployment benefits.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin (D-Michigan) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana)
introduced the measure today:

The bill would extend for one year (through 2010) the $1.00 per gallon production tax credit for biodiesel and the small agri-biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon. The bill would also extend for one year (through 2010) the $1.00 per gallon production tax credit for diesel fuel created from biomass. This proposal is estimated to cost $868 million over 10 years.

This Business Week article says the biodiesel industry would like to see the measure passed before the Memorial Day holiday.

“We’ve gone through this game before where it looks like the game is over,” [National Biodiesel Board spokesman Michael] Frohlich said. Producers had anticipated the credit would be extended back in February…

Levin and Baucus said the tax- and-spending package may be put to a vote in the House tomorrow. It would then have to be approved by the Senate before it could be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

We’ll keep watching.

Ethanol Testimony at Farm Bill Hearing

A House Agriculture Committee field hearing in South Dakota on the 2012 Farm Bill featured a lot of testimony about ethanol.

POET Scott WeishaarPOET Vice President for Commercial Development Scott Weishaar testified that the ethanol industry has become a legitimate threat to Big Oil and Washington deserves credit for envisioning that future when it created positive policies such as the Renewable Fuels Standard.

“With your help, we can continue this progress,” he said. “We have the natural resources, the ingenuity and the technology to reach our nation’s goal of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel produced per year by the year 2022.”

He specifically asked the lawmakers to take four actions will help achieve that goal:

1. Increase the base blend allowed in today’s standard vehicles from 10 percent to 15 percent ethanol.
2. Mandate that all new vehicles purchased in the U.S. are flex fuel.
3. Provide incentives for installation of blender pumps, which can dispense a wide range of ethanol blends and allow greater choice for consumers.
4. Support cellulosic development through loan guarantees, a long-term extension of the cellulosic ethanol tax credit and incentives for farmers to offset risk in providing new biomass feedstock.

A panel of farmers at the hearing also stressed the need for actions to keep the ethanol industry growing in the United States. Gary Duffy, president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, said, “Along with renewing VTEEC, overcoming the blend wall is critically needed to create new markets and providing jobs across Rural America.” Growers Rod Gangwish of Shelton, Neb. and Steve Mast of S.D., also mentioned the need for continuing the tax incentives and increasing the blend rate.

Approximately 175 members of the agriculture community from South Dakota and surrounding states attended the hearing, which was hosted by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Opening statements from the hearing can be found on the House Agriculture Committee website.

DF Cast: Biodiesel Producers Reiterate Call for Incentive

Biodiesel producers, large and small, have renewed their call for Congress to move on the federal $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax incentive.

During a recent webinar hosted by the National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe, Bernie Crowley of Delta American Fuel in Helena, Ark.; Gen-X Energy Group in Pasco, Washington President Scott Johnson; Bobby Heiser with Nittany Biodiesel; and Renewable Energy Group’s CEO Jeff Stroburg made their case to the media.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, you can hear what they had to say, including how they not only need the tax incentive renewed now, but also how they need a more permanent solution to save jobs, to save the biodiesel industry, and considering the ecological disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, to save the environment.

Listen to the conversation in the player below.

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

No Bull(s) … Army Hosting Renewable Energy Rodeo

No bulls, not even the mechanical kind, but the U.S. Army is hosting a rodeo … the inaugural Renewable Energy Rodeo and Symposium (RERS), June 8-9, 2010, at Fort Bliss, Texas, evaluating the latest energy technologies that could reap immediate benefits for the military and the nation:

RERS, co-hosted by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Fort Bliss, serves to advance energy initiatives affecting all levels of the Department of Defense, from ground vehicles to installations.

During the two-day exposition, the latest mature technologies and innovations in renewable energy concepts and alternative fuel technologies will be displayed and demonstrated. Panel discussions and guest speakers will feature some of the Nation’s top experts in a variety of energy-related fields and technologies.

“Energy security remains a top priority for our warfighters and our Nation,” explained TARDEC Director Dr. Grace M. Bochenek. “As we aggressively pursue the latest in renewable energy capabilities and alternative energy technologies, it is vitally important we tap the best-of-the-best from industry, academia and government.”

It’s only fitting that Fort Bliss is hosting the energy rodeo, since the post is the Army’s Center for Renewable Energy. Officials expect some “game-changing technologies and innovative solutions.”

More information is available here.

Biodiesel Plant Layoffs Prompt Renewed Call for Action

Another day, more jobs lost due to Congress’ inaction on renewing the $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel tax credit.

This time, it’s the Maple River Energy biodiesel plant near Galva, Iowa. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association says 12 of the facility’s 18 employees are being laid off until the biodiesel blenders credit is reinstated:

Delayne Johnson, General Manager of Maple River Energy, added: “Looking my employees in the eye and telling them they were being laid off was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life. Despite the expiration of the tax credit, we did everything we could at Maple River Energy to keep a core key group of highly trained employees on the job. We took Congress at their word when they promised to make restoring the biodiesel tax credit their first priority in 2010. Congress has failed to live up to that promise.”

“The fact that the U.S. Congress has allowed the biodiesel tax credit to lapse for over one-third of 2010 is absolutely mind-boggling,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Congress’ inaction has cost thousands of green jobs – another 12 this week. As painful as this is, if the finger-pointing between the House and Senate stops and they reinstate the biodiesel tax credit, within 24 hours many of those green collar biodiesel jobs across the country will be reinstated.”

Meanwhile, KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids reports one of Iowa’s U.S. Senators, Republican Charles Grassley is chiding the Obama Administration for failing to make renewal of the credit a priority … even as the President just wrapped up a tour of wind turbine plant in Iowa and a biofuel plant nearby in Missouri:

“He ought to be giving some push to this, particularly when traveling southeast Iowa to say that you want a jobs bill, you want to promote green jobs, you want to promote more jobs,” Grassley said. “One little simple bill, not controversial, and you could put 23,000 people back to work right away.”

About 2,000 biodiesel jobs have already been lost this year in Iowa. The IRFA warns those layoffs could become permanent if Congress doesn’t act soon. Some leaders have promised the bill will be considered before Memorial Day.

Ethanol Demand a Topic at Clean Energy Forum

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other administration officials joined rural stakeholders for a clean energy economy forum at the White House on Wednesday, which was the one year anniversary of President Obama’s Biofuels Directive.

clean energy forum“Renewable energy production is a key to sustainable economic development in rural America,” Vilsack said. “We must rapidly escalate the production of biofuels to meet the 2022 Federal Renewable Fuels standard goal, and much of this biofuel will come from feedstocks produced by America’s farmers and ranchers. This will be an increasing source of income for rural America and it represents an opportunity to increase the number of green jobs available not only to farm families, but to residents of rural communities.”

Two panels moderated by the Secretary consisted of administration, academic and science professionals discussing efforts to help rural America build a clean energy economy that creates jobs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and enhances our competitive position in the global economy.

USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber discussed the current situation for ethanol, with production outpacing use. “We are producing a lot of ethanol,” said Glauber. “It doesn’t mean we’re necessarily at the blend wall, but there is a lot of production out there for the supply.”

He noted that ethanol stocks have grown. “In February, stock numbers were close to 800 million gallons. That’s a record, that’s about 25 or so days of inventory,” Glauber said.

While the ethanol industry is hopeful that EPA will grant a waiver to allow up to 15 percent ethanol to be blended in regular gasoline, Glauber is doubtful that will be a quick fix. “I don’t think that a change to E15 will transform the situation overnight,” Glauber said, since he believes the transition at the pump level will take some time. If the EPA only grants a partial waiver for E15 in newer vehicle, Glauber says the transition will be even more complicated. “Then there will have to be E10 available for those older cars and E15 potentially available for younger cars, so it’s not a silver bullet for the constraints that we see ethanol production under right now.”

EPA continues to wait on data from the Department of Energy on vehicle testing before they make a final decision on the waiver request.

EPA, USDA Announce Biogas Program

Two federal agencies are teaming up to capture the methane U.S. farms produce and turn that greenhouse gas into fuel.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture have a new interagency agreement that will promote the biogas as a renewable energy source, while cutting those gas emissions from livestock operations. This EPA press release says the agreement is an expansion of the AgStar program:

“We want to seize every opportunity to confront climate change and move into the clean economy of the future. This is a smart way to transform what would be a harmful greenhouse pollutant into a source of renewable energy — and make a profit for American farmers,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We have the technology and the expertise, all we need now is to act. The AgStar program brings real benefits to our air and creates new opportunities for our farming community.”

“The farms and ranches that dot our countryside can contribute greatly to addressing America’s long-term energy challenges and the partnership we are announcing today will not only help generate renewable energy, but provide new income opportunities for farmers and ranchers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The EPA and USDA believe the $3.9 million their collaboration will provide over the next five years will help farms overcome obstacles preventing them from recovering and using biogas. Right now, there are about 150 on-farm manure digesters across the country that turn methane into biogas. Estimates are that 8,000 farms could put in digesters and recover the equivalent of the greenhouse gases of 6.5 million passenger vehicles a year while producing 1,500 megawatts of energy.

Gulf Oil Spill Could Shape Biodiesel’s Future

While the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has had no measurable effect on the petroleum markets, it could end up having an impact on the biodiesel industry in this country.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is pouring thousands of gallons of oil into coastal ecosystems and has been designated as an event “of national significance” by President Obama. Heatingoil.com reports it could also be a turning point in our energy policy:

The environmental and economic devastation of the spill could have major political fallout that shapes future US energy policy. A shift in public opinion away for supporting offshore drilling could put the brakes on a federal plan to expand drilling allowances and build support for the development on biodiesel and other green energy sources.

It was just about a month ago that Obama was calling for more offshore drilling. Maybe this will get him to push Congress to finish work on the federal biodiesel tax incentive and save the biodiesel industry before it’s too late.

Colorado Biodiesel & CO2 Projects Get Federal Grants

A pair of projects in Colorado to help develop renewable energy will be getting some federal money.

The Denver Post reports
$9.1 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants are hoped to create jobs and speed innovation:

OPX Biotechnologies Inc. will receive $6 million to engineer microorganisms to use renewable hydrogen and carbon-dioxide inputs for producing a biodiesel-equivalent fuel at low cost. The award said catalysts will be explored to convert microbial fuel into jet fuel.

The University of Colorado at Boulder has been awarded $3.1 million to create very-thin ionic liquid membranes that allow carbon dioxide to pass through at high rates, reducing the size and cost of membranes needed for carbon-dioxide capture.

The projects were part of $106 million handed out by DOE for 37 projects across the country.

Farm Bureau Supports Extending Biofuel Tax Incentives

afbfTax incentives play a key role in the development and production of renewable energy, and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is urging Congress to pass two bills that would extend renewable fuel tax credits for five years.

In a statement presented for the record to a House Ways and Means Committee hearing this week on energy tax incentives, AFBF said long-term tax incentives are needed to boost renewable energy technologies and support development of the market infrastructure necessary to make these technologies more competitive.

AFBF supports legislation that would extend the biodiesel tax incentive for five years and change the biodiesel tax incentive from a blenders excise tax credit to a production excise tax credit. The general farm organization also backs the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act that extends the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and the Small Ethanol Producers Tax Credit for five years through 2015. That bill also extends the Cellulosic Ethanol Production Tax Credit for three years, through 2015 and the secondary tariff on ethanol that offsets the benefit received by imported ethanol.

“Clean and renewable domestic energy will help America achieve long-term economic growth, create a cleaner environment and shield our energy supply from unreliable foreign sources,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Renewable fuels are vital for rural America. They create much needed jobs and open new markets for farmers and ranchers. Tax incentives play a key role in the development and production of renewable energy.”