EPA Hearing Turnout to Show #RFSWorks

The public hearing in Kansas City, Kansas last week on EPA’s proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard was a who’s who of the biofuels industry and then some.

epa-hearing-panelA total of 254 people on 43 panels testified in two different rooms for about seven and a half hours. It was over twice as many people who testified at a public hearing in Arlington, Virginia in December 2013 on EPA’s first proposed RVO for 2014 that was ultimately withdrawn.

The vast majority of those testifying at the hearing were biofuels supporters, less than a dozen represented the oil industry or others opposed to increasing use of biofuels. Ethanol and biodiesel producers, corn growers, agribusiness interests and fuel retailers from across the nation testified, in addition to several state lawmakers, two governors and their agriculture secretaries.

The very first panel consisted of representatives from the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, American Soybean Association, National Farmers Union, National Biodiesel Board and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

RFA senior vice president Geoff Cooper urged the agency to implement the statute as Congress intended and abandon its blend wall methodology in setting the 2014–2016 renewable volume obligations.

“We continue to believe EPA is overstepping the bounds of its legal authority by proposing to partially waive the RFS based on perceived distribution capacity constraints,” Cooper said. “Nothing in the statute allows EPA to set the renewable volume obligations (RVOs) based on the so-called ‘blend wall’ or alleged infrastructure limitations. Congress considered measures that would have allowed waivers based on distribution infrastructure. But they rejected those concepts because they knew allowing such off-ramps would allow oil companies to hold the RFS program hostage.”

Listen to Cooper and others on the first panel here: EPA RFS Hearing panel 1

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing is sponsored by
Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing sponsored by RFA

RFA Chairman to EPA: Tear Down the Blend Wall

rfs-rally-doyleTestifying at a public hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and rally in Kansas City, Kansas Thursday, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) board chairman Randy Doyal urged EPA to “tear down the blend wall” and implement the statute as Congress intended.

In his testimony at the hearing, the CEO of Minnesota-based Al-Corn Clean Fuel said that even though gasoline consumption might be slightly lower today than Congress anticipated when it adopted the RFS, it was always the intent of the program to push beyond the blend wall and increase the share of renewable fuels in our nation’s fuel supply.

“…the Clean Air Act statute does not permit EPA to take into account ‘factors that affect consumption,’ such as purported infrastructure constraints or the so-called ‘blend wall,’ in determining whether to grant a general waiver of the RFS,” Doyal noted. “By embracing the ‘blend wall’ concept, the EPA proposal not only violates the law, but also undermines the incentive to expand biofuel production and distribution capacity, and allows oil companies to only blend as much renewable fuel as they are comfortable using.”

Doyal also made remarks at the #RFSWorks rally. RFA chair Randy Doyal at RFS rally

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing is sponsored by
Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing sponsored by RFA

EPA Official Ready for Long Day

rfs-hearing-agritalkHundreds of stakeholders are gathered in Kansas City, Kansas for a public hearing on the proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Chris Grundler, Director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, is the official in charge and he took a few minutes this morning to sit down with AgriTalk and discuss the proposal and his expectations for the hearing. In a quick interview with Domestic Fuel, Grundler talked about what he learned during his visit to East Kansas Agri-Energy “What struck me is that this plant was built by a bunch of neighbors and now ten years later it’s very successful,” said Grundler.

The hearing is now underway and Grundler says “we will be here until the last person speaks.”

Interview with Chris Grundler, EPA

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing is sponsored by
Coverage of EPA RFS Hearing sponsored by RFA

EPA Officials Visit Kansas Ethanol Plant

EPA officials visit East Kansas Agri-Energy plant

EPA officials visit East Kansas Agri-Energy plant

In advance of a public hearing in Kansas City on the proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials visited East Kansas Agri-Energy (EKAE) in Garnett, Kansas Wednesday.

Federal and regional EPA personnel toured the 45 million gallon per year corn ethanol plant, examined progress on EKAE’s co-located renewable diesel project, and discussed the importance of the RFS with plant management and local investors. EPA also hand-delivered a letter to EKAE approving the company’s efficient producer pathway petition, which certifies that the company’s ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 27.2 percent compared to petroleum.

“Today’s event provided an excellent opportunity for key EPA officials to see firsthand the ethanol industry’s innovation and ingenuity,” said Jeff Oestmann, CEO of EKAE. “We were honored to host EPA, and we thank them for spending a few hours with us to learn more about the ethanol process, renewable diesel, and the importance of the biofuels industry to the Garnett community. We had a very productive discussion and hope they left here with a new appreciation for both the challenges and opportunities facing ethanol producers today.”

EKAE, which was founded by local farmers and business leaders, produced its first gallon of ethanol one month before the original RFS was adopted in 2005. In 2014, the company broke ground on a bolt-on renewable diesel facility, which will convert the corn distillers oil already produced at the plant into low-carbon advanced biofuel.

RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper, who also attended the tour, said EKAE is proof that the RFS is working. “EKAE is an excellent example of how the RFS provided the stability needed for first-generation biofuels like corn ethanol to succeed and flourish, then delivered the investment certainty required to develop second-generation biofuels like renewable diesel from corn distillers oil,” he said.

Both Oestmann and Cooper will be testifying today at the EPA hearing in Kansas City, along with more than 250 other industry stakeholders.

Listen to an interview with Oestmann and Cooper about the plant tour and hearing here: Interview with Jeff Oestmann, EKAE and Geoff Cooper, RFA

EPA RFS Public Hearing photo album

RFA Supports American Agri-Women

AAW Drive TruckThe ethanol industry is supporting women in agriculture. The Renewable Fuels Association and Syngenta, maker of ethanol friendly Enogen corn, join a growing group of sponsors of the American Agri-Women Drive Across America. The nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agri-business women, is celebrating 40 years of advocating for agriculture with its “Drive Across America.”

AAW President Sue McCrum and other leaders will drive in a specially wrapped pick-up truck, participating in educational, network and advocacy events hosted by AAW’s more than 50 affiliates. The Drive will finish at the 2015 annual convention in Portland, Maine.

Building Markets for Ethanol Exports

RFA's Kelly Davis on ethanol trade mission to Mexico

RFA’s Kelly Davis on ethanol trade mission to Mexico

Expanding export markets for U.S. ethanol was the focus last month as a group of industry representatives to Mexico and Japan on trade missions coordinated through a partnership between the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), U.S. Grains Council and Growth Energy.

RFA Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis says they saw exceptional opportunities in Mexico. “I left very excited about a potential market beginning in 2016-17 for some corn ethanol exports,” said Davis.

The group met with PEMEX, the Mexican state-owned petroleum company, which Davis says has traditionally been against the idea of using corn ethanol for fuel but that may be changing. “Mexico has enacted an energy reform bill which opens their energy sector to competition,” said Davis. “We think this opens the market up to ethanol because it’s more price competitive compared to the oxygenate they now use which is MTBE.”

Davis says Japan currently has an E3 limit and most ethanol is blended into the supply as ETBE, “so technically they already use ethanol but they use ethanol as a feedstock to make ETBE and then use that as their blending agent.” There is some optimism that the market share of biofuels in Japan will continue to increase through the use of E10.

Learn more in this interview: Interview with RFA's Kelly Davis on ethanol trade mission trip

Ethanol Report from Washington DC

dinneen-officeDomestic Fuel stopped by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) office in Washington DC Wednesday to visit with president and CEO Bob Dinneen and discuss the latest with the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and expectations for next week’s EPA hearing in Kansas City.

Following his appearance on a Fuels America press call, Dinneen addressed yet another bill introduced this week to repeal the RFS and renewed charges by RFS opponents that the law is increasing food prices.

ethanol-report-adRegarding the June 25 public hearing on EPA’s proposed volume obligations under the RFS, Dinneen says the agency has already received about 250 requests to testify and he is encouraging everyone possible to turnout. “I want chaos, I want farmers that care about what this proposal would mean for their bottom line, I want consumers that care about the fact that gasoline prices will increase if this proposal is finalized, I want ethanol producers there, I want biodiesel producers there, I want anybody that cares about our nation’s energy, economic and environmental future to show up in Kansas City and throw a hissy fit,” said Dinneen.

Listen to or download the Ethanol Report here: Ethanol Report from Washington DC

To EPA – Get the RFS Back on Track

The biofuels industry is reacting to what is being called an “unfriendly” hearing being held tomorrow by the Senate Homeland Security Committee as well as to a press briefing held earlier today by the American Petroleum Institute (API), who industry supporters say is janetmccabe-thseeking a means to end the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The hearing, “Re-examining EPA’s Management of the Renewable Fuel Standard Program,” will be focused on examining EPA’s management of the RFS and features only one speaker: Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation.

API this morning argued against the RFS by once again raising concerns over the EPA biofuel mandates warning “that higher ethanol mandates could damage vehicles and raise food costs.” Corn prices are spiraling downward and are the lowest seen in over two years despite growing ethanol use as noted Wisconsin corn farmer Cal Dalton during a Fuels America press conference this afternoon.

Dalton was joined by Ohio corn grower Fred Yoder and Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), who said during the call, “There is nothing wrong with the RFS that can’t be fixed by what is right with the RFS.” He continued by saying new legislation is not needed, but rather, the EPA needs to review the statute and put the program in place that Congress established.

Participants on the call also discussed how legislative changes to the RFS will threaten America’s security, consumer choice, climate and rural economies. They also provided insight on EPA’s proposed renewable fuel obligations (RVOs) and they reacted to the claims put forth during the API media call.

The media conference was also a preview of the RFS public hearing taking place in Kansas City, Kansas on June 25, 2015 where EPA representatives will hear comments on the proposed rules for 2014, 2015, 2016 and the proposed 2017 RFS standard for biomass-based diesel. More than 250 people have already submitted requests to speak during the event. DomesticFuel will be covering the event live that begins at 9:00 am CT and will be held at Jack Reardon Center, 520 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas 66101.

To learn more about the ethanol industry’s call to the EPA to get back on track, listen to the Fuels America press conference here: Fuels America RFS Hearing Presser

RFA Names New Communications Director

rfa-jacksonA man with a professional background in ag communications is the new communications director for the Renewable Fuels Association. The group says Tony Jackson, a former Director of External Affairs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and counsel for the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, is also a graduate of Boston College Law School.

“We are thrilled to have Tony joining our remarkable team,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “With his extensive communications and policy background, Tony will be a tremendous asset to RFA in its efforts to tell the story of how the U.S. ethanol industry is bolstering rural economies and assisting our nation to become more energy independent.”

“I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of the RFA team,” Jackson said. “I look forward to using my skills to amplify RFA’s voice, and to help our nation to become cleaner, safer, and more energy independent.”

Jackson will be responsible for developing and managing the full range of RFA’s communications efforts, including advocacy-oriented communications approaches, traditional and social media strategies, and brand awareness.

What Food Safety Act Means for Ethanol Plants

few15-fsma-kellyThe Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011 and this summer the rulemaking for the new act might finally be complete. Because it includes safety of animal food as well as human food, ethanol plants that produce the co-product distillers grains for livestock feed are impacted.

Renewable Fuels Association Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis talked about what plants will need to do when FSMA becomes final during the 2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop. “One of the first things in the rule is Current Good Manufacturing Practices,” said Davis, who says that most plants are already ahead of the game in that area. “We have really nice manufacturing facilities, good housekeeping, good quality assurance … a lot of us were gifted what we would call a good manufacturing practice plant.”

The main impact that FSMA will have on ethanol plants is another layer of bureaucracy. “It’s going to be a written plan with constant updating, supervision of the plan, verification of the plan,” said Davis. “It’s going to be similar to other programs like air quality and process safety management – you’re going to write down what you’re going to do, you’re going to do what you wrote down, and you’re going to verify you did it.”

Davis says there were some changes already made in the rule as it has been developed and assuming it is finalized in its current form she thinks ethanol plants will be able to comply within the two year time frame given by the law. “This is an important program and we’re going to provide some guidance to help people comply,” said Davis.

Find out more about FSMA and ethanol plants in this interview. Interview with Kelly Davis, RFA

2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Coverage of the Fuel Ethanol Conference is sponsored by
Coverage of the Fuel Ethanol Conference is sponsored by Novozymes