Senate Bill Looks to Clear, Simplify Rules on Biomass

collins1A bill that has the backing of Democrats, Republicans and Independents in the U.S. Senate would clarify and simplify federal rules on biomass. This news release from Maine Sen. Susan Collins says an amendment sponsored by Collins and Sen. Angus King from Maine, and cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Al Franken (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and James Risch (R-ID) has been adopted unanimously as part of the Energy Policy Modernization Act, which is currently under consideration in the Senate..

This amendment echoes the principles outlined in a June 2015 bipartisan letter Senator Collins sent to the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Agriculture, which was signed by 46 Senators, including Senator King. The amendment is supported by the National Alliance of Forest Owners, the American Forest and Paper Association, and the American Wood Council.

In November 2014, one hundred nationally recognized forest scientists, representing 80 universities, wrote to the EPA stating the long-term carbon benefits of forest bioenergy. This group weighed a comprehensive synthesis of the best peer-reviewed science and affirmed the carbon benefits of biomass.

“Biomass energy is sustainable, responsible, renewable, and economically significant as an energy source, and many states, including Maine, are already relying on biomass to meet their renewable energy goals,” said Senator Susan Collins. “While the carbon neutrality of biomass harvested from sustainably managed forests has been recognized repeatedly by numerous studies, agencies, institutions, and rules around the world, current policy uncertainty could end up jeopardizing rather than encouraging investments in working forests, harvesting operations, bioenergy, wood products, and paper manufacturing. Our tripartisan amendment would help ensure that federal policies for the use of renewable biomass are clear, simple, and reflect the importance of biomass for our energy future.”

“Not only is forest biomass a home-grown and environmentally-responsible source of energy, but it can also be a significant boon to rural economies in Maine and across the country,” Senator King said. “That’s why it’s time that the federal government recognizes the environmental and economic benefits of this renewable resource. By requiring every federal department to be on the same page when it comes to biomass policy, our amendment will ensure that biomass will play an important role in shaping a clean and affordable energy future for America.”

The amendment requires the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure federal policies regarding biomass are consistent across all departments and agencies and these federal agencies establish clear and simple policies for the use of biomass as an energy solution.

ARF Releases Final Prez Candidate Report

ARF RFS Report Card-2As the year comes to a close, Americas Renewable Future (ARF) has released its final 2016 presidential candidate Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) report card. Candidates are given a “good” or “bad” grade based on their statements and actions related to the alternative energy legislation. ARF plans to send the report card to more than 50,000 pledged caucus-goers so that “Iowans know which candidates will protect the state’s economy or which will be job killers”.

Both Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Rand Paul once again received a “bad” grade while the remaining Republican and Democrats have received a “good” grade. Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich and Marco Rubio have been upgraded from “needs work” to “good”.

Out of the race is Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal George Pataki, Rick Perry and Scott Walker.

During the past few weeks, Sen. Cruz has made pro biofuel statements but ARF calls him a liar and hypocrite and has been funding campaigns across Iowa to enlighten voters to his true position on biofuels – against them.

“Ted Cruz is dangerous to Iowa and thousands of Iowa jobs,” again stresses ARF State Director, Eric Branstad. “Our economy depends on a strong RFS and Iowans count on $5 billion in wages thanks to it, Ted Cruz wants to kill their jobs and we are going to make sure every Iowan knows that.”

Congress Votes to Extend ITC for Wind, Solar

The renewable electricity industry got an early holiday present this week as Congress included a five-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for renewable energy projects that provides a 30 percent federal tax credit for commercial installations of solar PV systems and new wind energy projects in the tax extenders package. The ITC was set to expire at the end of 2016.

WIND•e20®CGE Energy, a company that offers no capital cost energy solutions, commended Congress on their vote for clean energy. According to a company, they make energy projects possible for commercial and nonprofit facilities without having to rely on government stimulus incentives.

“We have made an important focus on not being dependent on the Investment Tax Credit on our project development, especially considering the uncertain future of the credit,” said CGE Energy’s President and CEO Bryan Zaplitny. “Seeing these latest legislative decisions, the utilization of the ITC where appropriate will increase the benefits we can give our customers as well as expedite our growth and stockholder appreciation.”

e2-logo-color-webCGE Energy is also in the midst of bringing to market their own patented vertical axis small wind turbine, called WIND•e20. The 105-foot tall turbine is being manufacturing by Burtek Enterprises, Inc. a well-recognized market leader in safety critical applications.

Bob Keefe, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), noted that the ITC extension gives wind and solar industries the policy certainty they need to plan future investments, create good jobs and continue to see progress on meeting climate change goals. Continue reading

Poll: Illinois Voters Support Clean Energy Credits

According to a new poll, three out of four (74 percent) Illinois voters support continuing to provide tax incentives for renewable energy. The poll comes out as Congress considers renewing a number of energy tax credits including the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Both of these federal incentives are designed to spur renewable power development for energy sources such as wind and solar energy. The poll was released by A Renewable America (ARA), a project of the Wind Energy Foundation.

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

The poll also found:

  • Support for renewable energy tax incentives is strong across the political spectrum. 60 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Illinois Independents support continuing renewable energy tax incentives.
  • 74 percent of Illinois voters support continuing tax incentives for renewable energy, even when presented with contrasting arguments. This support was particularly strong among younger voters, as 92 percent between the ages of 18 and 29, and 82 percent of voters between the ages of 30 and 39 agree.
  • 88 percent of Illinois voters agree with the message that “we should continue to encourage renewable energy development so that the United States can move toward energy independence.”
  • 78 percent of Illinois votes agree with the message that “we should have a stable and predictable tax policy, because it makes it easier for the renewable energy industry to plan its investments and continue driving down costs.”
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of voters said they would be more favorable to a leader who supported continuing tax credits for renewable energy producers.
  • Recently, 46 renewable energy businesses and organizations with a significant presence in Illinois sent a letter to Senator Mark Kirk and Representatives Bob Dold and Pete Roskam, urging their support for timely extensions of the PTC and ITC.

“As an Illinois-based manufacturer, I can say that the policy uncertainty around these incentives jeopardizes industry growth and threatens jobs,” said Joni Konstantelos, director of investor relations and corporate communications for Broadwind Energy. “It’s not surprising that Illinoisans support stable policy to continue the growth of renewable energy in our state.” Continue reading

Biodiesel Industry to Congress: Renew Tax Incentive

uscapitolThe biodiesel industry is calling on Congress to quickly pass a measure that would renew the biodiesel tax credit. The new legislation, sponsored by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Reps. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J), includes a key reform restructuring the incentive from a blender’s credit to a producer’s credit focused on domestic production. It eliminates the existing blender’s structure, which is allowing foreign producers take advantage of the incentive. The National Biodiesel Board points out that not only will the new legislation encourage domestic production, it will save about $90 million in tax dollars. NBB wants action on it soon.

“The biodiesel industry cannot grow and support good-paying jobs without some level of predictability on tax policy, and the legislative clock is winding down,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “This tax incentive has strong bipartisan support, as demonstrated by the bills introduced today. It’s good for the economy, it’s good for the environment and it’s good for consumers. And importantly the reforms included in today’s bills will appropriately focus the incentive on U.S. production”

“We want to thank Reps. Noem and Pascrell and Sens. Grassley and Cantwell again for their leadership on this issue,” she added. “This bill, when passed into law, will go a long way toward creating biodiesel jobs across the country and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

Grassley’s home state Iowa Biodiesel Board and Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) added their encouragement to pass the measure, as well as their thanks to the lawmakers involved. Continue reading

Clean Energy Victory Bonds for a Clean Climate

A new bill was introduced in the U.S. this week in conjunction with COP21: the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2015. If passed, it would help the U.S. meet its climate goals. Introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), the Act would also create more than 1 million jobs. The Clean Energy Victory Bonds would begin as low as $25 and the funds raised would be invested in clean energy. The bill is endorsed by Green America and the American Sustainable Business Council who have been touting clean energy bonds for several years. A similar act was introduced in 2012 but failed to gain momentum.

clean energy victory bondsTodd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America, said of the bill, “This bond fills a real need for individual and institutional investors, offering them a low risk opportunity to invest in clean energy sectors such as solar, wind, second generation biofuels, electric vehicles, and residential and commercial energy efficiency programs. It will also provide the incentives companies need in the clean energy sector to maintain the United States’ leadership and create over 1 million jobs in the U.S.”

The groups say the Clean Energy Victory Bonds will create major benefits:

  • Leverage $50 billion investment to provide up to $150 billion in public and private financing to fund the production of innovative energy technologies, at a time when the U.S. is falling behind other countries in clean energy manufacture and installation.
  • Help create at least one million competitively-paying jobs in the U.S.
  • Support America’s clean energy sector, helping to ensure that the U.S. remains a world leader in this increasingly crucial and competitive industry.
  • Reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy, enhance national security, and limit price increases and fluctuations.
  • Provide a secure, competitive, government-backed investment vehicle for average Americans and investment institutions alike seeking a safe place for their money.
  • Offer flexible redemption options at interest rates superior to most bank accounts.
  • Help all Americans to invest in the future of their country and benefit from their investments.
  • Promote a cleaner environment through the financing of clean energy technologies.
  • Protect the health and safety of Americans by reducing local air and water pollution throughout the country.

The groups note that tax incentives for renewable energy come and go, often without predictability, leaving investors and industry scrambling. The Clean Energy Victory Bond, they say, would extend vital tax credits for a decade, giving emerging industries the support they need to develop and become increasingly competitive.

“From a business perspective, the Clean Energy Victory Bond makes great sense,” added Richard Eidlin, co-founder & VP of policy for the American Sustainable Business Council. “The market is speaking, and it’s speaking in favor of clean energy. As the world comes together in Paris to address climate change, it is more important than ever for renewable energy industries to have a new source of investment capital to build the market momentum.”

Iowa Biodiesel Makers Take to DC

nafb15-nbb-grantIowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) members joined their National Biodiesel Board colleagues in lobbying lawmakers to renew and restructure the federal $1-per-gallon credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel. IBB pointed to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s proposal that would correct a loophole in the existing program and save U.S. taxpayers $90 million.

“Nowhere is the success of the tax credit more evident than in Iowa. Our state’s 13 plants produced more than a quarter of a billion gallons of biodiesel last year, supporting jobs and economic development while replacing foreign oil and diversifying our fuel supply. The federal tax incentive has played a key role in enabling those plants to stay operating and profitable, benefiting all levels of our economy,” said Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board.

But Kimberley isn’t just looking at the benefits for Iowa. During an interview with the recent National Association of Farm Broadcasting meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, he said that Iowa biodiesel can be a real help to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

“California … wants to have all of their transportation fuels fit under the [LCFS], where it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is better for the environment,” said Kimberley. “Renewable fuels, including biodiesel, can play a key role in that.”

He said biodiesel producers have had to educate California officials just how good biodiesel can be. Initially, California scored biodiesel just above conventional diesel. But education efforts improved that score.

“Now they’ve moved that score higher, so now it’s up to 50-80 percent better than petroleum-based diesel, which means biodiesel can play a really strong role in the [LCFS]. It could be up to 600 million gallons of biodiesel per year that could be utilized in California,” said Kimberley.

He also pointed out that since California doesn’t produce much of the green fuel, it opens up many possibilities for Midwest producers.

Listen to all of Cindy’s conversation with Kimberley here: Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board

Biodiesel Leaders Push for Tax Credit Renewal

Biodiesel leaders from across the nation descended on Washington, D.C., to push lawmakers to renew the federal $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax credit. The National Biodiesel Board points out producers have been without the credit for all of 2015, and that’s the fourth time in six years Congress has allowed it to lapse.

nafb15-nbb-gregDuring the recent National Association of Farm Broadcasting meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, NBB board member Greg Anderson, a soybean producer from Nebraska, said they’d like to get the tax credit done for two years – retroactive for 2015 and for the upcoming 2016 calendar year. He said it’s important to get this passed.

“It levels the playing field,” said Anderson. “We know that oil is subsidized, and biodiesel is a young industry [in comparison]. It would give incentives and confidence to the plants out there that have the production capacity, want to make new hires, provide great jobs and energy independence. We’re lacking when [the tax credit] is not in place.”

Anderson feels confident it will get done, because he knows the NBB’s Washington office has been working legislators hard. He hopes those lawmakers will realize just how valuable the fuel is and how it fits with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Biodiesel is the tip of the spear toward the RFS’ success. We’re the only advanced biofuel commercially available,” showing success from coast-to-coast, heating homes and fueling vehicles cleanly, he noted.

Anderson added the NBB is also working with the Environmental Protection Agency that could see more aggressive RFS growth for biodiesel than what the EPA is currently proposing.

Listen to interview here: NBB board member Greg Anderson

Biofuels Groups Blast House Hearing on RFS

uscapitolBiofuels backers say a U.S. House Science Committee had very little to do with science in regards to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The Congressional committee met on the 10th anniversary of the RFS, and Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy, said the committee has a history of misrepresenting biofuels, relying on misinformation and outright lies to cast a negative light on an American success story.

“Today’s hearing was nothing more than a coordinated attack against biofuels. Minus a few open-minded individuals who examined this issue based on facts, not pre-determined bias, this hearing did nothing to reflect the overwhelming contributions of the RFS…

“With regards to the environmental benefits of ethanol, the facts are clear. According to Argonne National Laboratory, – an objective national laboratory – ethanol reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an average of 34 percent compared to gasoline, even when the highly controversial and disputed theory on Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) is factored into the modeling. Furthermore, Argonne has found that without ILUC included, ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 57 percent compared to gasoline.

“It is unfortunate that the Science Committee missed an opportunity to provide an unbiased examination of the RFS. Instead, the Committee – which has no jurisdiction over this policy – continued to present a misguided agenda to smear biofuels, hosting several witnesses that fabricated information on the impact biofuels have on food prices, the environment and the American economy. This treatment of homegrown American fuels is insulting to the hardworking Americans across our country who are helping fuel our energy independence.”

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen said “Big Oil’s narrative opposing the RFS no longer has any currency.” Continue reading

Iowa Biodiesel Producers Push for Tax Incentive

IowaRFAlogoIowa biodiesel producers are pushing for a renewal of the federal $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) sent a letter to all members of the Iowa Congressional delegation urging them to pass a multi-year biodiesel tax incentive.

“While facing more than a century of uninterrupted subsidies for petroleum, the biodiesel tax incentive has been allowed to expire four times in six years,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Now more than ever, the biodiesel community needs certainty and a level playing field in order to continue to build upon the vast energy security, economic and air quality benefits producing and using biodiesel currently provides to this country.”

The letters stated, “We urge you to do all you can to push for swift passage of a tax extenders package that includes an amendment to shift the biodiesel tax incentive to a producer’s credit, as was unanimously passed out of the Senate Finance Committee in the Tax Relief Extension Act of 2015 (S.1946) on July 21, 2015.

“The biodiesel tax incentive is a proven job creator that is critically important to the U.S. biodiesel industry, and specifically to Iowa biodiesel producers. However, the $1.00 per gallon incentive lapsed on January 1, 2015, marking the fourth time in six years that the incentive has expired—even as favorable tax incentives for petroleum have continued uninterrupted for more than a century. This has created significant disruption and uncertainty in the industry. It is imperative that Congress end this piecemeal tax policy for biodiesel by passing a long-term tax incentive that paves the way for growth.”

The entire biodiesel industry is not quite in harmony on the renewal of the tax incentive. Last week, the Advanced Biofuels Producers Association stated its opposition to an amendment by Sens. Charles Grassley and Maria Cantwell, which would extend the $1-per-gallon federal credit, but would convert the credit from one for blenders (those who make biodiesel mixtures) to one for those who produce biodiesel and renewable diesel.

Iowa is a major producer of biodiesel, with 12 biodiesel facilities able to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually.