Anti-Ethanol Bill Steps Consumers, Farmers Back

There is still buzz around a bill introduced last week by Representatives Bill Flores (R-Texas), Peter Welch (D-Verm.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Vir.) and Jim Costa (D-Cali.) that would cap ethanol blends in America’s transportation fuels at 9.7 percent by volume. This cap would be in direct opposition to the goal of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that aims for 20 percent of all fuels to be renewable fuels by 2020.

Growth Energy co-chair, Tom Buis noted that the bill is flawed in many ways, one being the ethanol industry is already producing, and fuel retailers are already blending and selling, more than 10 percent ethanol by volume.

Ethanol Blends Photo Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

This bill is incredibly flawed because the ethanol industry is already producing over the bill’s 9.7 percent threshold and growing. Perhaps more importantly this bill would deal a blow to American consumers who have embraced ethanol as a less expensive, 21st century fuel that is higher performing and allows for consumer choice,” Buis stated. Today, E15 availability is growing and is now being sold in 23 states.

Paul Jeschke, a farmer from Mazon, Illinois, and chair of the Ethanol Committee of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), called the bill a step backward for farmers and consumers. “Americans want cleaner air, affordable choices at the gas pump, and a strong economy that fosters investment in new technology and improves our energy independence. Meanwhile, American corn farmers are struggling, with prices below the cost of production and the largest carryover stock in two decades.” Jeschke added, “The Renewable Fuel Standard was created to promote American renewable energy while creating a steady market for corn. This bill would undercut the RFS and negatively impact corn farmers, and with it, the entire farm economy.”

As members of Congress head home for Memorial Day recess, Jeschke is urging farmers and consumers to use the opportunity to reach out to their elected officials and call on them to block the bill and share with them the benefits of ethanol.

Long-Term Biodiesel Tax Incentive Bill Introduced

U.S. Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) have introduced legislation to extend the biodiesel tax incentive through 2019 and modify the program to become a domestic production credit. The $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit has been lapsed and reinstated multiple times. It is scheduled to expire yet again on December 31, 2016. This bill would extend the incentive three years while also changing its focus to support domestically produced biodiesel.

National-Biodiesel-Board-Logo“While oil tax breaks remain permanently written into the tax code, the biodiesel tax incentive is yet again set to expire in less than eight months,” said National Biodiesel Board (NBB) Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel in response to the introduction of the bill. “This is no way to do business. Biodiesel producers need stable, predictable tax policy to continue to grow and hire. We want to thank Reps. Noem and Pascrell for taking the lead on this issue to create that stability and spur economic activity.”

According to NBB, foreign biodiesel imported to the U.S. and then blended with petroleum diesel is eligible for the tax incentive. As a result, more foreign biodiesel producers are taking advantage of the tax credit by shipping their biodiesel to the states. Today imported biodiesel makes up nearly a third of the U.S. market, around 670 million gallons.

“In addition to extending the incentive, this bill includes an important reform ensuring that this tax incentive is directed toward domestically produced biodiesel,” added Steckel. “This would not only reduce the cost of the tax incentive to the Treasury, but it would level the playing field for American producers who are now competing against predatory imports that are getting subsidies in their country of origin only to be shipped to the U.S. to receive another incentive from American taxpayers. Incentivizing foreign biodiesel production was never the intent of this incentive, and Congress should reform it immediately.”

ASA-logoThe American Soybean Association (ASA) also commended Reps Noem and Pascrell for the introduction of the legislation. Also calling out the need for long-term policy to keep the industry strong, President and Delaware farmer Richard Wilkins also noted that uncertainty not only negatively affects industry investment, but hurts farmers.

“In a farm economy that is dealing with low crop prices, that uncertainty and added stress are things that farmers don’t need. In the challenging political environment of an election year, it may be easier for lawmakers to pull back from working together, even on common-sense legislation like this, which is what makes the leadership shown by Representatives Noem and Pascrell so commendable.” Wilkens concluded, “We appreciate their work on this issue and we urge Congress to support the extension and restructuring of the biodiesel tax credit.”

Iowa Extends State Biodiesel Incentives

BiodieselpumpKumGo1_0EFFDCA366A05Iowa lawmakers have spent some time this week voting on renewable energy programs in the state. Earlier this week a resolution was passed in support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) staying on track and now the Iowa House passed legislation that extends tax credits to biodiesel producers. One enables biodiesel facilities to remain competitive on a national scale and the other credit assists retailers who choose to offer consumers biodiesel blends at the pump.

The legislation, SF 2309:

  • Extends the Biodiesel Production Credit through 2024, originally set to expire at the end of next year. The credit is 2 cents per gallon on the first 25 million gallons of production per biodiesel plant, and helps keep biodiesel production and economic activity in Iowa.
  • Extends and expands the Biodiesel Promotion Retail Tax Credit. The incentive will continue to provide petroleum retailers 4.5 cents a gallon on blends of at least 5 percent biodiesel (B5) through 2017. From 2018 – 2024, the B5 incentive will drop to 3.5 cents per gallon, but an additional incentive of 5.5 cents per gallon will take effect for gallons of B11 and higher.

“These policies help keep biodiesel production in Iowa, reinforcing our state’s leadership position in the drive for renewable energy,” said Grant Kimberley, Iowa Biodiesel Board executive director. “With the addition of the retail incentive for blends of B11 and higher, we should see biodiesel begin to make up a more substantial portion of our state’s motor fuel supply, too. We can and should use our own fuel product to displace foreign oil.”

Renewable Energy Group (REG) President and CEO Daniel J. Oh responded to the passage by noting, “We at REG are very pleased and even more grateful for the overwhelming support from Iowa lawmakers to extend and improve these worthwhile incentives. The proven benefits of higher biodiesel blends are becoming more well-known and this legislation is further recognition that expanded biodiesel production and consumption works for Iowa’s economy.”

The legislation now goes to Governor Terry Branstad for consideration.

Big Oil Wins Big on Taxes

Big OilToday is Tax Day. While many Americans will receive a modest refund, oil producers are raking in the big bucks, $4 billion to $6 billion, through tax incentives dating back more than 100 years. Today, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is pointing out that many of these century-old tax provisions never expire while the ethanol industry agreed to let its incentive expire in 2011.

The Joint Committee on Taxation recently estimated that elimination of certain “fossil fuel preferences” (i.e., subsidies) would save U.S. taxpayers at least $24.5 billion — or roughly $210 per U.S. household — between 2015 and 2020.

“Big Oil needing any government assistance is preposterous,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Why would an incumbent industry that has a virtual monopoly at the pump need taxpayer dollars to compete?”

“On this tax day, Congress should seriously consider repealing this absurd and costly corporate welfare,” continued Dinneen. “Consumers will benefit when there is a truly free market in motor fuel, when alternatives like ethanol have access to the pump, when a variety of biofuel blends (E15, E25, E85) are accessible to consumers and when taxpayers no longer have to subsidize the most profitable industry on the planet. Until then, programs like the Renewable Fuel Standard are all we have to compel some level of competition and cost-control on an otherwise broken and unfair market.”

Proposed Tax Credit Amendment for CO2 Capture

A new amendment has been proposed by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) that would provide a tax credit for technologies that are able to convert CO2 into products such as advanced biofuels, animal feed and biochemicals. The proposed language would create a new utilization tax incentive to complement section 45Q of the tax code, which already provides credits for the adoption of carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

ABO logo“We thank Senator Whitehouse for his leadership and recognition that a number of innovative technologies are coming of age that can help the United States achieve substantial, permanent reductions in CO2 while producing valuable commodities,” said Matt Carr, executive director of the Algae Biomass Organization in response to the amendment. “Carbon utilization technologies are attracting broad congressional support, and common-sense policy like this can play a key role in accelerating how quickly algae and other utilization technologies will improve our energy and economic security.”

Algae cultivation is one viable way to transform CO2 into products such as advanced biofuels or biochemicals and products used in industries such as the health and beauty industries. In addition, the Algae Biomass Organization says algae companies across the U.S. are working to commercialize new technology advances that also convert CO2 to fertilizer, plastics and feed ingredients.

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