Ag Department, Navy Team Up for Biofuels

Leaders from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Navy have kicked off the first of several forums designed to increase biofuels production and meet the Navy’s renewable energy needs.

This USDA press release says the opening of the forum today in Honolulu came as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recently signed by the USDA and the Navy regarding renewable energy:

“As we continue to expand efforts to build a clean energy economy, create new jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we can use the Navy’s fleet as a catalyst to increase demand for biofuels and spur economic opportunity in rural communities throughout the country,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan…

“The Department of the Navy is very energized about the partnership with the Department of Agriculture,” said Navy Assistant Secretary Jackalyne Pfannenstiel. “This collaborative effort will enable us to reduce our petroleum consumption and increase our alternative energy opportunities. The Navy and Marine Corps’ warfighting capability will benefit through a more secure energy future.”

The strategic goal is to reduce this country’s reliance on fossil fuels, especially on the battlefield where transportation costs can make a gallon of gas cost up to $400. The Navy has set several energy targets, featuring biofuels in most of them:

* When awarding contracts, appropriately consider energy efficiency and the energy footprint as additional factors in acquisition decisions.
* By 2012, demonstrate a Green Strike Group composed of nuclear vessels and ships powered by biofuel. By 2016 sail the Strike Group as a Great Green Fleet composed of nuclear ships, surface combatants equipped with hybrid electric alternative power systems running on biofuel, and aircraft running on biofuel.
* By 2015 cut petroleum use in its 50,000 non-tactical vehicle commercial fleet in half, by phasing in hybrid, flex fuel and electric vehicles.
* By 2020, produce at least half of shore based installations’ energy requirements from alternative sources. Also 50 percent of all shore installations will be net zero energy consumers.
* By 2020 half of DON’s total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks, vehicles and shore installations will come from alternative sources.

Lack of Biodiesel Tax Cut Cuts REG Iowa Workforce, REG Launches Facebook Page

Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group has had to lay off 45 percent of its workforce in the company’s home state, due to the failure of Congress to renew the $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel tax credit.

REG is expected to meet with two key members of Congress, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), at REG facilities in each of the congressmen’s home states.

In addition, REG Chairman and CEO, Jeff Stroburg, sent U.S. House Ways & Mean Committee chairman Sander Levin a letter pleading his case for reinstatement of the incentive:

The reinstatement and retroactivity of the biodiesel tax credit is critical to putting these employees back to work.

The biodiesel tax credit is currently within the Extenders Package (H.R. 4213) which is part of the second jobs bill, the American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act. This bill was sent passed by the Senate March 10th and is currently awaiting action by the U.S. House of Representatives Ways & Means committee.

We know the countless issues you face each day each deserve your attention and I know you work tirelessly to address each one; however, ours is becoming increasingly critical for our survival.

The earliest Congress can take up the issue would be the week of April 12th, when it returns from spring break. Meanwhile, those REG biodiesel workers … and approximately 23,000 others across the country … are on a break from drawing a paycheck.

Meanwhile, REG has started a Facebook fan page to urge Congress to reinstate the biodiesel tax credit:

Can we get 500 emails into the House Ways & Means Committee to aid the biodiesel industry? Tell our legislators to reinstate and make retroactive the biodiesel tax credit TODAY!

Copy and paste the message below or write your own:

“Reinstatement of the federal blenders biodiesel tax credit is a national energy security and green collar jobs issues. It is urgent for the biodiesel industry that the biodiesel tax credit, within HR 4213, be passed and sent to the President’s desk for signature as soon as possible.”

New Fuel Economy Regulations Set

The the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and unveiled new fuel economy rules today that will begin phasing in in 2012. According to EPA, the rules could potentially save the average buyer of a 2016 model year car $3,000 over the life of the vehicle and, nationally, will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lives of the vehicles covered.

“This is a significant step towards cleaner air and energy efficiency, and an important example of how our economic and environmental priorities go hand-in-hand,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “By working together with industry and capitalizing on our capacity for innovation, we’ve developed a clean cars program that is a win for automakers and drivers, a win for innovators and entrepreneurs, and a win for our planet.”

Automobile manufacturers are expected to meet these standards by more widespread adoption of conventional technologies that are already in commercial use, such as more efficient engines, transmissions, tires, aerodynamics, and materials, as well as improvements in air conditioning systems. EPA and NHTSA also expect that some manufacturers may choose to pursue more advanced fuel-saving technologies like hybrid vehicles, clean diesel engines, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and electric vehicles. The new regulation allows automakers to get credits for building flexiblie fuel vehicles until 2015, but after that, it must show the alternative fuel is being used to get credits.

“America needs a roadmap to reduced dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gases, and only the federal government can play this role,” The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers President and CEO Dave McCurdy said, “The national program announced today makes sense for consumers, for government policymakers and for automakers.”

NHTSA predicts that passenger cars will have to average 33.3 mpg in 2012, a figure that rises to 37.8 mpg in 2016, light trucks, including SUVS, pickups and vans, will be required to average 25.4 mpg in 2012 and 28.8 mpg by 2016.

Berkeley Lab Awarded Funds for Biofuels Research

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Cathy Zoi announced today that Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will receive almost $18 million from the Recovery Act to build an advanced biofuels process development facility from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This grant will assist researchers with studies of next generation biofuels by providing industry-scale test beds for innovative technologies called Advanced Biofuels Process Development Unit (PDU).

“The Advanced Biofuels Process Development Unit will serve the efforts of major biofuels research across the nation, including the Bioenergy Research Centers in the DOE Office of Science,” said Berkeley Lab director Paul Alivisatos. “The establishment by EERE of this facility at Berkeley Lab, a DOE Office of Science national laboratory, reflects a renewed spirit of cooperation between the DOE technology and science programs. Berkeley Lab is proud to play its part.”

Zoi added, “The Department of Energy is committed to developing cost-effective and sustainable advanced biofuels. With this investment in the Advanced Biofuels PDU, we will vastly increase the capacity to test new innovative approaches on a larger, integrated scale. Scaling up these clean energy technologies is crucial to addressing climate change and building a strong, domestic clean energy economy.”

The Advanced Biofuels PDU is scheduled to be fully operational by early 2011. The facility will be a publicly available facility where researchers can integrate process steps and test innovative technology pathways, such as those being developed at DOE’s Office of Science Bioenergy Research Centers, and it will be the only one of its kind available for public use.

Ethanol Bob Tweeting President’s Energy Speech

Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen is on location at the site of President Obama’s speech this morning on energy initiatives for the United States. The event is being held in a hanger at Andrews Air Force Base with the backdrop of a Navy Green Hornet jet that will fly on biofuels on Earth Day.

The president is expected to announce new energy policies that rely heavily on domestic production of traditional energy sources, including opening up new off-shore oil drilling. However, Dinneen says, “Relying on 20th century energy sources to address 21st century challenges will not solve the problem. America’s energy policy must be focused on renewable sources that have great potential for innovation and improvement. Renewable fuels, such as ethanol produced from a variety of feedstocks, hold great promise to reduce our need for imported oil, address climate change concerns, and create enduring economic opportunity. Oil and other fossil fuels are finite resources. While we cannot ignore their contributions, neither can we ignore the reality that reliance on them is simply unsustainable.”

Follow Dinneen’s Twitter updates from the president’s address at

Post Update:

According to the Navy:

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-23 will be testing the full envelope of the ‘Green Hornet’ with a drop in replacement biofuel made from the camelina plant in an effort to certify alternative fuels for naval aviation use.

The ‘Green Hornet’ flight is an important step in the certification and ultimate operational use of biofuels by the Navy and Marine Corps.

Bipartisan Bill Would Save Jobs and Help Ethanol Grow

Bipartisan legislation introduced Thursday will help preserve jobs in the renewable energy industry and accelerate the development of cellulosic ethanol, according to its sponsors. The Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act sponsored by Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and John Shimkus (R-IL) unveiled legislation would extend the current Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), the Small Ethanol Producers Tax Credit and tariff on imported ethanol for five years and extend the Cellulosic Ethanol Production Tax Credit for three years.

Congressman Pomeroy said, “At a time when our economy is struggling, we cannot afford to let these tax incentives expire and stymie the growth we have seen in our ethanol industry.”

“Extending the ethanol and cellulosic tax credits helps give much needed certainty to the industry and will continue to help our nation’s energy security,” said Congressman Shimkus.

Leaders of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Growth Energy and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), joined the congressmen in a Thursday afternoon press conference at the Capitol to introduce the bill. Pictured from left to right are RFA President Bob Dinneen, Congressman John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D- N.D.), with NCGA president Darrin Ihnen at the podium.

“The extension of VEETC would contribute to energy independence, create and secure thousands of jobs in rural America and allow for a stronger agriculture sector,” said Ihnen, a grower from South Dakota. 

Growth Energy just released a study showing that if the tariff on foreign ethanol is allowed to expire at the end of the year, extreme job losses and the loss of billions of dollars in economic activity would follow. The 10 year projection, calculated by the University of Missouri’s Community Policy Analysis Center, found 39,506 jobs would be lost in the first year after the tariff lapses, 115,642 in the second year, and 161,384 in the third year. The decline in economic activity following the lapse of the tariff was calculated at $9.2 billion the first year, $26.4 billion the second year, and $36.7 billion the third year – and remaining in the double digits during the 10-year projection, hitting $21.2 billion in 2021.

“Without the tariff, American taxpayers will be allowing foreign-subsidized ethanol to subvert American companies and American workers,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “It would replace our nation’s addiction to foreign oil with dependence on foreign ethanol – and not make our nation one bit more energy secure.”

Joining Reps. Pomeroy and Shimkus as co-sponsors of the bill are 27 other members of Congress. A companion bill in the Senate is expected soon.

RFA Pleased with Bill to Extend Ethanol Incentives

The Renewable Fuels Association today praised the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act (RFRA) introduced by Representatives Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and John Shimkus (R-IL). The bill would extend the $0.45 Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), commonly called the blenders’ credit, and the secondary tariff on imported ethanol until December 31, 2015. It would also extend the Small Producers Tax Credit and the Cellulosic Ethanol Production Tax Credit to January 1, 2016.

Renewable Fuels Association Logo“Passage of the RFRA will provide investors with the long term stability needed to bring next generation technologies to commercialization. Likewise, it allows current ethanol producers to invest with confidence in new efficiencies to further improve upon ethanol’s economic and environmental benefits,” said Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. “Representatives Pomeroy, Shimkus and their fellow cosponsors are showing tremendous leadership and foresight. I urge all members of Congress to take this opportunity to learn the real facts about American ethanol production and, ultimately, pass this bill as soon as possible.”

Last week, the RFA released a study detailing the damage that would be inflicted upon the domestic ethanol industry if the tax credits were allowed to expire, which would include the loss of 112,000 jobs and the reduction of domestic ethanol production by 38 percent.

Chuck Zimmerman interviewed Bob Dinneen, who participated in a press conference today introducing the bill. Listen to or download that interview here:

Warthog to be First Jet to Test Biomass Jet Fuel

It’s officially called the A-10 Thunderbolt II, but to the men and women who wear the blue of the U.S. Air Force, it is affectionately called the Warthog … and it’s real beauty will come in its upcoming test of biomass-based jet fuel.

Air Force News Service says a test pilot will attempt to fly an A-10 on a blend of biomass-derived and conventional JP-8 jet fuel, the first flight of an aircraft powered solely on a biomass-derived jet fuel blend:

The biomass-derived fuel used for this event is referred to as hydrotreated renewable jet, or HRJ, and is part of a class of fuels derived from either plant oil or animal fat feedstocks. The feedstock source of the biomass powering the A-10 demonstration is camelina oil, a flowering plant in the same family as mustard, cabbage and broccoli, but not used as a food-source.

Biomass-derived fuels offer the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While additional testing will be conducted to explore the full extent of their benefits, test data show that particulate emissions are reduced during combustion of biomass-derived fuels.

This event marks the next phase in the Air Force’s alternative aviation fuel program and represents a milestone in worldwide development of alternative aviation fuels, paving the way for future Air Force HRJ certification flight tests of the F-15 Eagle, F-22 Raptor and C-17 Globemaster III to begin this summer.

This flight is part of the Air Force’s goal to get half of its domestic aviation fuel from an alternative fuel blend by 2016.

Pennsylvania Biodiesel Heating Oil Mandate Considered

Pennsylvania residents might soon take the chill off their cold winter nights (and cool spring, summer and fall days and nights) with a dose of biodiesel.

This post from says a new bill introduced in the state legislature by Sen. Ted Erickson would require heating oil to be blended with biodiesel, as well as lowering the sulfur content in regular diesel:

The bill in Pennsylvania would amend a 2008 bill known as the Biofuel Development and In-State Production Incentive Act. The low-sulfur mandate would go into effect on May 1, 2011; heating oil in Pennsylvania is currently allowed to have a sulfur content of up to 2,000 parts per million. The requirement for heating oil to include 10 percent biodiesel would go into effect on May 1, 2013.

The post goes on to say the Pennsylvania Petroleum Marketers supports the bill, and the Keystone State could be joining other states in the Northeast that either already have or are proposing a biodiesel-in-heating-oil mandate.

Biodiesel Incentive to Wait At Least Until Mid-April

Although it has a broad base of support across the country (unlike a certain health care measure that 60+ percent of Americans don’t favor), renewal of the federal $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax incentive seems that it will have to wait at least a month at the earliest before Congress will get to it.

This article from Reuters says with Congressional recesses coming up, the measure is unlikely to see any action until at least the middle of next month:

While the House and Senate have passed bills to renew the credit for 2010, they must agree on a common text to send to the president. “Neither the House or Senate has signaled any particulars on how they will do that,” said Michael Frohlich of the National Biodiesel Board, a trade group.

The tax credit is one provision in a $149 billion bill focused on job creation and extension of tax incentives.

A resolution is unlikely before mid-April, said two biofuels officials. Congress soon will recess until April 13, they noted, and a final vote on the credit could be delayed until late April or later, depending on the pace of House-Senate negotiations.

So, instead of moving quickly on a bill that is projected to save 23,000 jobs that have been or are being lost by the biodiesel industry because of the loss of the credit, we have lawmakers in D.C. staying up late on a Sunday night to pass a bill (healthcare) that has only about one-third of the country’s support. Maybe they should have nick-named the measure the “Biodiesel Health Bill.”