Experts Present Case for Ethanol vs Gasoline

ethanol-plant-rfaLeading experts in the field of lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis and agricultural land use today responded to claims that corn ethanol and other biofuels are somehow worse for the climate than petroleum.

A panel of scientists and economists refuted the suggestion by anti-biofuel advocates that carbon accounting schemes should not credit bioenergy feedstocks for CO2 absorption based on the notion that the feedstock would have absorbed CO2 even if it wasn’t being used for biofuel. Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper, who moderated the panel, called the assertion “illogical” and said “it’s a bit like saying the wind was going to blow anyway, so wind energy shouldn’t be counted as carbon neutral; or the sun was going to shine anyway, so we shouldn’t assume that solar panels are harnessing ‘free’ energy from the sun.”

California-based Life Cycle Associates (LCA) just released a new report on how biofuels have helped reduce GHG emissions in the United States since 2008 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). “The lifecycle approach is the best metric for greenhouse gas emissions for biofuels because it takes into account the fact that this is short cycle carbon that was recently removed from the air,” said LCA Senior Partner Stefan Unnasch. “The alternative system means that you have to have global accounting of all agriculture… that’s simply impossible and the opportunities for fraud are present everywhere.” Even if such a carbon flow approach was possible, if done correctly it would show that bioenergy reduces GHG emissions compared to petroleum.

LCA scientist Susan Boland explains that their recent study actually found greater GHG emissions reductions from biofuels than expected. “We found that the RFS2 has resulted in significant GHG reductions, with cumulative CO2 savings of 353 million metric tonnes over the period of implementation. These emissions savings occurred even though cellulosic biofuels have not met the RFS2 production targets,” said Boland.

University of Illinois-Chicago economist Steffen Mueller noted that much is made about land going into biofuels production. “But that land area is really relatively small,” he said. “There’s a lot of other land available that we can use to optimize sequestration potential.” Commenting on the latest Department of Energy analysis, Mueller said “…ethanol produced from corn grain and corn stover provides substantial greenhouse gas benefits over gasoline.” The latest version of GREET shows life cycle emissions for corn ethanol in the range of 63.5‒66.4 gCO2e/MJ, which is over 30% less than the 94 gCO2e/MJ for gasoline.

Meanwhile, Purdue University economist Dr. Wally Tyner takes issue with the assumption land used for biofuel feedstock production would have grown the same feedstock for some other purpose or reverted to a natural state in the absence of biofuels demand. “If we hadn’t have had biofuels in the United States, we might still be paying farmers not to grow as we were before biofuels came along,” said Tyner. “So the assumption that all of this would have happened anyway I think is absurd.”

Listen to the call here: RFA GHG conference call

Analysis Shows RFS2 has Reduced GHG Emissions

rfalogo1A new analysis shows implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) has resulted in a reduction of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 354 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent since 2008.

Findings of the analysis, conducted by California-based Life Cycle Associates, have important implications for both the pending final rule for 2014–2016 RFS volumes and upcoming global climate talks in Paris, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), which sponsored the study.

According to the report, “The RFS2 has resulted in significant GHG reductions, with cumulative CO2 savings of 354 million metric tonnes over the period of implementation. The GHG reductions are attributed to greater than expected savings from ethanol and other biofuels.”

Specifically, the authors ascribe the larger-than-anticipated GHG emissions reductions to: technology improvements in grain ethanol production, increased consumption of low-carbon advanced biofuels, and the steadily rising carbon intensity of petroleum fuels. The study found that conventional corn ethanol reduced emissions by an average of 29 percent when compared to the petroleum actually used in 2008, with that reduction growing to 39 percent by 2015. Importantly, these estimates include the best available estimates of prospective “indirect land use change” emissions from Argonne National Laboratory.

“This report, which uses globally accepted GHG accounting methods, demonstrates that the RFS has been tremendously successful in reducing the carbon intensity of our transportation fuels. In fact, the study found the RFS has actually exceeded expectations in terms of GHG reduction,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen.

Read more here.

API Push Poll Proved False by Real Poll

A push poll was recently released by the American Petroleum Institute (API) that found a majority of votes are concerned about using ethanol in their engines. The poll also found voters are opposed to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), contrary to what many other surveys have found. In response, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), President and CEO Bob Dinneen called the poll “utterly dishonest” and said the questions are so “biased with prejudicial lead in text” that that the results cannot be considered even remotely credible.

Commenting specifically on the wording of the poll questions, Dinneen said that framing their misplaced narrative about food versus fuel, engine damage, and gasoline price impacts as questions, while blatantly ignoring all the facts to the contrary, assures a predetermined result that adds nothing to the public discourse.

API-RFS Poll Question-1Dinneen noted the RFA has been conducting its own monthly surveys throughout the year to ask respondents their opinions about ethanol and the RFS. He said the RFA surveys, which have been conducted by Morning Consult, have consistently shown strong support among the public for the RFS. November’s survey asked 2,001 (twice the number surveyed by API) registered voters for their opinions on biofuels and the RFS. Dinneen pointed out that RFA’s questions were straightforward and balanced, as opposed to those posed by API. When asked in the RFA survey whether they supported the RFS, 62 percent of respondents indicated that they supported the RFS, while 16 percent of respondents indicated they opposed the program. In addition the RFA poll found that a majority of voters (52 percent) think the RFS should be expanded.

API-RFS Poll Question -2“I would like to say that I am shocked API has stooped to such measures as trying to promote an obvious push poll, containing extremely biased questions, as a credible indication of public sentiment about the RFS and ethanol, but I am not,” said Dinneen. “API will do anything and everything in its power to ensure that its monopoly on the marketplace continues. Our data shows when you ask the public fair and balanced questions about the RFS, you see that it clearly supports the ethanol industry. The public wants safe, affordable fuel, and that’s what the RFS allows them to have each and every time they head to a fueling station to fill up their engines.”

Here are examples of questions asked by the API poll and the RFA survey. Dinneen is calling on readers to judge for themselves:

API poll question: “Over 40% of U.S. corn production is currently used to produce ethanol for gasoline. This significantly diverts corn away from the global food supply. Given that, how concerned are you that using even more corn for ethanol production could increase food prices here in the U.S. and increase hunger among the world’s poor?”

RFA survey question: “As you may know there is currently a renewable fuel standard that requires a certain amount of fuel produced each year to come from ethanol, bio-diesel and other renewable resources that aren’t fossil fuels. Do you support or oppose this requirement?”

Other credible polls conducted by third party polling organizations have also found broad support for the RFS including polls from National Farmers Union and America’s Renewable Future.

#Ethanol Leaders Discuss RFS with OMB

rfalogo1Ethanol organization representatives met Wednesday with with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to discuss the forthcoming rule from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis delivered the message that the RFS is working and that there is no reason for EPA to set the Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for undifferentiated renewable fuel (primarily corn ethanol) below the levels specified in the statute.

growth-energy-logo1Dinneen said data show the U.S. ethanol industry would have no problem meeting the 15 billion gallon blending level specified by the statute. “The latest data from the Energy Information Administration show that gasoline consumption projections for 2016 have increased. In fact, EIA expects 2016 gasoline demand to achieve a nine-year high,” said Dinneen. “Our calculations show that because of the uptick in gasoline demand alone, EPA must increase the 2016 RVO by 270 million gallons.”

Dinneen added that the EPA significantly understated the use of E85 and non-ethanol conventional renewable fuels, including non-advanced renewable diesel and biodiesel, in its proposal. “We provided OMB with data showing that EPA has understated the likely market for E85 and non-ethanol conventional biofuels in 2016 by at least 440 million gallons,” said Dinneen. “All of this suggests there will be at least 14.7 billion gallons of undifferentiated renewable fuel blended next year.”

“This meeting was really our closing argument before the administration makes its final decision. We impressed upon OMB that the oil industry’s ‘blend wall’ narrative is simply not true,” Buis added. “The data is there to prove the value of the program and it shows the RFS is doing exactly what it was intended to do. The president needs to uphold the statute.”

EPA is expected to issue the final RFS rule for 2014-2016 on or before November 30.

RFA Updates

e85-pricesThe Renewable Fuels Association has unveiled a redesigned version of its popular fuel market website

According to RFA Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White, the layout of the site has been updated for easier navigation and redesigned with a modern interface for a cleaner presentation. “The all new website and mobile app make it easier than ever to locate E85 stations, search for the best prices for ethanol blends, and post your personal pricing experiences,” said White. “Both the website and the app are optimized for use on any device and allow easier interaction than ever before. It is our hope that these upgrades will lead to increased usage and reporting.”

nafb15-rfa-whiteDuring an interview at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting last week, White said they have been working on the upgrade since they acquired earlier this year. “We think this will allow consumers and fleet operators a better ability to find E85 stations to use the fuel and find the best deal they can on E85,” White said, noting that 85 percent ethanol is approved for use only in Flex Fuel vehicles, of which there are now over 19 million on the road in the nation. is now better integrated with Google for optimal search results that link back to the website. In addition, the mobile app also includes an updated interface that makes it easier for users to share the latest prices for the fuel in their areas.

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, White talks about the update, as well as the increasing number of flex fuel vehicles on the road, the growing number of stations offering E85, and other topics related to higher ethanol blends in the marketplace.

Listen to this edition of the Ethanol Report here: Ethanol Report on Updated

Fuels America TV Ad Blasts Anti-RFS Congressmen

Fuels America has launched a new TV ad that blasts the Congressional leaders who sent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy a letter requesting that corn-based ethanol volumes be reduced in the final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules. The final rules for 2014, 2015 and 2016 are expected by the end of this month.

The ad calls out Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) for protecting oil company profits and criticizes the signers who Fuels America calls climate change deniers. It continues by urging viewers to “Remind Peter Welch to stand up for Vermont, not oil companies and climate deniers.”

As noted in a previous story, the 184 Members of Congress who signed on have collectively received more than $39 million from the oil and gas industry throughout their careers. When combined, the signers have a National Environmental Scorecard of 2.74 out of a possible 100 (based on voting records) from the League of Conservation Voters (LCVs). The Scorecard is a nationally accepted yardstick used to rate members of Congress on environmental, public health, and energy issues. In addition 154 signers have an LCV score below 10, 140 have an LCV score below 5, and 76 have an LCV score of 0.

“After years of pleading with Congressman Welch, it is time to inform Vermonters about his beltway exploits with the oil industry attacking renewable fuels,” Advanced Biofuels Business Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman said in regards to the Congressional letter. “Mr. Welch didn’t just join an anti-biofuel campaign underwritten by the oil industry, he led the effort to recruit others. It is time to shine a brighter light on those encouraging EPA and the President to gut the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). It’s not a chorus, it is the oil industry, climate deniers and EPA bashers disguised as one. This letter and the millions of dollars of oil contributions flowing to its signers tell you everything you need to know about the anti-RFS crowd.”

The anti-RFS letter came shortly after several members of the Congressional Black Caucus called on the EPA to support the RFS citing negative health an environmental benefits of biofuels and the negative effects of emissions especially in vulnerable communities. Continue reading

Ethanol Conference to Offer View of Future

NEC 2016aThe organizers of the 21st Annual National Ethanol Conference are offering attendees a sneak peek of what they’ll see at the gathering Feb. 15-17, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans… while also offering a view of the future for the ethanol industry.

NEC 2016, Fueling a High Octane Future, will highlight how ethanol’s high octane content is driving demand for the fuel both domestically and abroad. Industry experts will provide a look at the current state of the industry, as well as forecasts for the future.

Featured Session Highlights Include…

Keynote Address from John Hofmeister, former president of the Shell Oil Company
Energy Markets Outlook with Tom Kloza, Global Head of Energy Analysis at Oil Price Information Service (OPIS)
High Octane Means High Performance Addresses ethanol’s benefits as a high octane fuel source for today’s vehicles, as well as future advanced engine technologies
Government Industry Conversation About the Future of U.S. Biofuels Policy, including a discussion on how evolving fuel policies present both challenges and opportunities to industry
Why Some Marketers Choose to Sell E15 and Flex-Fuels, and Others Don’t provides first-hand insight on the regulatory and marketplace environment presented by higher ethanol blends.
Opportunities for Ethanol Export in Key Target Markets will involve experts from the target markets of the International Buyer Program (Brazil, China, India, Mexico & Philippines) to provide detailed information on export opportunities for the U.S. ethanol industry
High Octane Fuels: Economic & Environmental Benefits will present a macro picture of the economic and environmental advantages of ethanol as a high octane fuel both domestically and abroad

In addition, those who register early will get some exclusive upgrades.

Register by November 27, 2015 and receive:

An exclusive invitation to participate in a private webinar on the 2016 presidential campaign with a focus on candidates’ positions on ethanol issues (taking place on January 14, 2016)
Entry into a drawing to win a complimentary Executive Suite upgrade
Entry into a drawing to receive a complimentary registration to NEC 2017

And if that weren’t enough, the NEC Scholarship Program will see six students have their full cost of the conference registration fee – an $895 value – paid for in full. Deadline to apply for the scholarship is December 18.

RFA Urges Secy Kerry to Promote RFS

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to head to COP 21 in Paris, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling on him to promote the success of Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen urged Kerry in a letter to highlight the role of the RFS in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encourage other countries to follow the example.

rfalogo1“On behalf of America’s renewable fuel producers and farmers across the country poised to contribute to lower carbon fuels here and across the globe, I ask you to be bold in Paris,” the letter states. “I ask that you encourage other nations to follow the lead of the United States, which has the single most effective and aggressive low carbon fuels program the world has to offer – and it has been a phenomenal success.”

Dinneen’s letter noted that although the RFS is a potent weapon in combating climate change and has a proven track record of reducing GHG emissions, the U.S. government’s actions leading up to Paris have not sufficiently embraced what he called “America’s best kept climate policy secret”. Enclosed with the letter was a recent RFA report indicating that nearly 30 countries attending COP21 have included biofuels policies and programs in their post-2020 climate action plans, but the U.S. plan does not even mention the RFS or biofuels.

In closing, the letter states, “Mr. Secretary, a very convenient truth is that renewable biofuels are poised to replace a dramatically increasing share of the world’s liquid transportation fuel. We are doing that successfully and to great benefit in the United States. With your leadership, the world will follow. But we must not be afraid to trumpet our success.”

Ethanol Industry Takes Clean Energy Mission to India

A team from the U.S. including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Growth Energy, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) recently returned from a clean energy mission to India. Led by USDA Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Micheal Scuse, the group met to discuss opportunities for developing clean energy solutions, technologies and policies. An additional goal of the mission was to strengthen the level of cooperation and coordination between the ethanol industries of the two countries.

logosDuring a series of meetings that involved ethanol producers, oil companies and government officials, the U.S. participant group of seven received an in-depth look at the local industry’s situation and outlook. There were extensive discussions on India’s economy, political environment, energy sector, and the role of government policy as a driver of the ethanol industry’s growth.

“Macroeconomic factors like population growth, continuing urbanization and increases in disposable income mean India is poised to use more gasoline and diesel fuels,” said USGC Past Chairman Ron Gray, who was part of the group representing the U.S. industry. “Given the negative effect that petroleum-based gasoline has on air quality, we feel that the expanded use of ethanol as an oxygenate can help India reduce smog and carbon emissions in this rapidly growing developing country, particularly in its cities.”

Ed Hubbard, general counsel for RFA said of the trip, “America’s commitment to using ethanol in our fuel has made it possible for our nation’s busiest cities to dramatically reduce levels of smog and other harmful tail-pipe emissions. By sharing our experiences with our friends here in India, we believe we can help them significantly improve the country’s air quality.”

In 2014, India imported $86 million of industrial ethanol mostly from the U.S. and Brazil and USGC expects imports to rise potentially researching $150-200 million in 2015. Even accounting for this level of growth, the U.S. ethanol industry believes there is still room for growth, especially in the transportation market. According to a press release sent out from the U.S. delegation, this view was echoed by India’s sugar and ethanol sector during last week’s meetings, with the country seeking ways to increase their blend rates from current low levels as a means to improving air quality while supporting India’s sugar producers.

Continue reading

NCGA Disappointed in Congress’ Lack of RFS Support

The National Corn Growers Association is “deeply disappointed” that Members of Congress who represent corn-producing states have sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting a reduction in the volume of corn-ethanol blended into the fuel supply as required by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The letter was signed by 184 Members of Congress and according to Open Secrets, collectively, these legislators have received $39 million from the oil industry throughout their careers.

Photo credit Joanna Schroeder

Photo credit Joanna Schroeder

“I’m disappointed to see Members of Congress turn their back on farmers and rural communities,” said Wesley Spurlock, First Vice President of the National Corn Growers and a farmer from Stratford, Texas. The Renewable Fuel Standard has been one of the most successful energy policies ever enacted. The RFS works. It has reduced our dependence on foreign oil. It has made the rural economy stronger. And it has been better for the environment. It’s puzzling that these Representatives would not want to support it.”

On November 4, 2015, the House members made a request to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to reduce the Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) for corn-based ethanol, the amount of biofuels blended into the transportation fuel supply each year. NCGA states that this action would violate congressional statue. The organization cites an article from Bloomberg News that claims that the initial drafts of the congressional letter were written by an oil industry lobbyist.

“This letter has Big Oil’s fingerprints all over it,” continued Spurlock. “The letter includes false attacks on ethanol that have been disproven time and again. The blend wall is a false construct. We have known from the beginning that eventually we would need higher blends of ethanol to meet the statutory requirements. That was the point: to replace fossil fuels with renewables. The oil industry doesn’t want to hear that. That’s why they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to repeal the RFS, even to the point of having their lobbyists write this letter.”

Also responding to the letter was Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “It should come as no surprise that, as the November 30th deadline for the EPA to issues its final rule on the 2014-2016 RVOs looms, the Big Oil spin machine has gone into overdrive and the petroleum industry is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to confuse the public and mislead policymakers about this important program. The fact that members of Congress are parroting Big Oil’s blend wall narrative is shameful evidence that money talks. Continue reading