Biofuels Groups Testify at EPA RFS Hearing

Cindy Zimmerman

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) heard concerns from many biofuels industry stakeholders during a public hearing Wednesday in Ypsilanti, Michigan on the proposed rule to set 2020 renewable volume obligations (RVOs) and the 2021 RVO for biomass-based diesel under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Much of the comments from both sides of the issues centered on whether or not EPA should account for renewable fuel volumes waived under small refinery exemptions.

Among those on the first panel of witnesses was Renewable Fuels Association chief economist Scott Richman. “Unfortunately, the market has no faith that the proposed 2020 renewable volume obligations will result in biofuel blending volumes consistent with the RFS standards set by law, including the 15-billion-gallon conventional renewable fuel requirement,” RFA Chief Economist Scott Richman said. “It is a misnomer to call the numbers in the proposal ‘obligations’ as long as small refinery exemptions (SREs) continue to transform the RFS into a voluntary program for roughly one-third of the nation’s refineries.”

RFA chief economist Scott Richman hearing testimony

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Communications Director Katie Fletcher testified that failure of EPA to reallocate waived gallons is contributing to an already tough economy for farmers and ethanol producers. “EPA’s mismanagement of the RFS has placed an artificial lid on domestic ethanol demand causing dozens of ethanol plants to consider slowing production or shutting down.”

ACE Communications Director Katie Fletcher hearing testimony

Several representatives from the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) testified at the hearing, emphasizing that EPA is sending a negative signal to the biodiesel industry by proposing flat volumes and then rolling them back through retroactive small refinery exemptions. NBB Chairman Kent Engelbrecht, who is also the biodiesel trade manager at Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), said “EPA has selected volumes for the biomass-based diesel market that are simply too low.”

Also testifying on behalf of NBB were Vice President of Federal Affairs Kurt Kovarik, and Chief Operating Officer Doug Whitehead.

National Biodiesel Board hearing testimony

ACE, Audio, Biodiesel, EPA, Ethanol, Ethanol News, NBB, RFA, RFS

New Corn Hybrids Could Benefit Ethanol and Biodiesel Producers

Cindy Zimmerman

Benson Hill Biosystems has entered into a partnership with Brownseed Genetics, a Wisconsin-based seed breeder of new corn hybrids that are higher in both oil content and essential amino acids offering added value for farmers, ethanol and biodiesel producers.

“Brownseed’s focus on varieties with both quality and productivity benefits can generate greater profitability for growers, livestock producers, and the ethanol industry,” said Matt Crisp, CEO and co-founder of Benson Hill. “Together, through this partnership, we will broaden the Brownseed portfolio so these hybrids can be grown across the Corn Belt.”

“For a small, family-owned company like ours to have access to the powerful technologies that Benson Hill offers would have been unthinkable only a few years ago,” said Charles Brown, CEO, Brownseed Genetics. “These advanced capabilities in predictive breeding and gene editing would have been available only to very large players in the seed industry, I’m pleased that Benson Hill is working with partners like us, across the food chain, regardless of size.”

Because Brownseed hybrids have higher calorie and nutrient content, they already enjoy steady growth in the livestock industry. With the E+™ hybrid, the company is targeting the corn-to-ethanol industry. After four encouraging trial runs of E+™ corn in research and commercial-scale ethanol plants, the company plans a major planting next year.

Biodiesel, biofuels, corn, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Seed

EPA Chief Urged to Visit Ethanol Plant

Cindy Zimmerman

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler visited an oil refinery in Pennsylvania Monday at the request of Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who just last week filed legislation in Congress to eliminate corn ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard. Now ethanol producers would like to see Wheeler visit one of their plants.

“This refinery produces 200k barrels/day and is a great economic driver for the region,” Wheeler tweeted after his tour of Monroe Energy, which is owned by Delta Air Lines.

Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Geoff Cooper issued an invitation to Wheeler to balance his visit to Monroe with a tour of an RFA member ethanol plant and discussion with plant workers and local farmers.

“During your visit, you likely will hear the refiners’ perspective on the Renewable Fuel Standard, and they will no doubt encourage you to continue EPA’s unprecedented use of small refinery exemptions,” Cooper wrote in his invitation letter. “Even though Monroe Energy is not a ‘small refinery,’ Delta officials will certainly argue that the company has benefited from the waivers because they resulted in a significant collapse in RIN prices. Of course, your agency’s own analysis has concluded that the financial health of refineries is not affected by RIN prices, stating that, ‘…obligated parties, including small entities, are generally recovering the cost of acquiring the credits necessary for compliance with the RFS standards through higher sales prices of the petroleum products they sell.’”

Cooper is hopeful that Wheeler will come and learn more about the challenges the ethanol industry is facing. While Wheeler was briefly at Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE) in June as President Trump made an appearance there to celebrate completion of the year-round E15 rule, he was not able to tour the facility with President Trump, Cooper, and SIRE CEO Mike Jerke.

EPA, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Oil, RFA, RFS

Quad County to Establish Monarch Fueling Station

Cindy Zimmerman

Quad County Corn Processors is the latest Iowa biofuels plant to start working with Iowa Renewable Fuels Association to establish a Monarch Fueling Station.

The monarch habitat will span roughly one acre. Today the land is used as a small corn field, but the plant will begin converting it to habitat after harvest with a mid-November seeding.

“We see the Monarch Fueling Station project as a new way to show how rural Iowa is leading the way in producing our nation’s food and fuel while protecting our natural environment,” said Alan Bennett, board member at Quad County Corn Processors. “Biofuel and agricultural production can coexist with important pollinators and native plants, and this project shows how that is possible.”

The Monarch Fueling Station Project was established in two years ago by IRFA in partnership with the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium to help Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel plants establish monarch habitat on plant grounds.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, Iowa RFA, pollinators

RFA CEO Blasts RFS Reform Bill

Cindy Zimmerman

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Geoff Cooper criticized recycled legislation introduced last week by
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) that “abolishes the corn ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).”

“Perhaps Senators Feinstein and Toomey are confused about the RFS. There is no ‘corn ethanol mandate’ under the program and there never has been. Yet, the senators are again seeking to bolster the fossil fuels industry by trying to kill one of the most successful environmental and climate policies ever enacted by Congress,” said Cooper. “We are confident that, as with past attempts, this legislation will go nowhere.”

Cooper called the name of the legislation, the “Restore Environmental Sustainability to Our Renewable Energy (RESTORE) Act,” ironic because it would “force more petroleum into our nation’s fuel supply.”

“Whether it’s oil spills in the Gulf, increased carbon emissions, or earthquakes in fracking country, what is environmentally sustainable about today’s oil industry?” said Cooper. “On the contrary, renewable fuels like ethanol reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40-50% compared to gasoline, while also slashing harmful tailpipe pollutants like particulate matter and carbon monoxide.”

Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA, RFS

RFA Partners with Hauk Designs to Take E85 Off-Road

Cindy Zimmerman

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Kenny Hauk of Hauk Designs are partnering to highlight the many benefits of using ethanol fuel blends in high-performance off-road vehicles. Fans can watch the Hauk team design and build an RFA flex-fuel Jeep Wrangler JL in a special “Hauk Machines” Amazon Prime video series airing soon. But first, the series kicks off exclusively on RFA’s Facebook page the week of August 12.

A special preview video debuts on RFA’s Facebook page this week as part of a larger social media campaign around this project that will continue for 14 weeks. This and other video content (mini-episodes) from this social media program will be used afterward on Amazon Prime as part of the much more comprehensive “Hauk Machines” second season.

Listen to RFA Vice President for Industry Relations Robert White give an overview of the new project.
RFA's Robert White describes partnership with Hauk Designs

Audio, E85, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Renewable Fuels Association, RFA

ACE Urges EPA to Use GREET Model for RFS Volumes

Cindy Zimmerman

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt the latest GREET model for the lifecycle analysis of corn ethanol.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, ACE CEO Brian Jennings highlighted the important role corn ethanol could have in further reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if properly valued under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and cited a recently published meta-analysis showing that corn stover retention results in significant soil carbon sequestration, and if taken into account by lifecycle modeling, reduces the GHG footprint of corn ethanol far below EPA’s current estimate.

“EPA relies upon lifecycle accounting to quantify GHG emissions under the RFS, however, your model is nearly a decade old and fails to include the continuing advancements in this science documented by the Argonne National Laboratory and the data represented in the meta-analysis,” Jennings writes. “EPA’s antiquated analysis is an impediment to more low carbon biofuel use hurting both rural communities and the environment.”

“As you work on the proposed rule to “reset” RFS volumes for 2021 and 2022, ACE urges you to take this timely meta-analysis into consideration to foster more ethanol blending,” the letter continues. “Specifically, we encourage EPA to use the “reset” as an opportunity to increase undifferentiated renewable fuel volume beyond 15 billion gallons for 2021 and 2022 by reallocating the 2.61 billion gallons waived so far through so-called “hardship” exemptions for small refineries and restoring 500 million gallons to the 2016 RFS compliance year as ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals.”

Read the letter.

ACE, Ethanol, Ethanol News

USDA Officials Provide Details of Support Package for Farmers

cindy zimmerman

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and other agency officials today announced further details of the $16 billion package “aimed at supporting American agricultural producers while the Administration continues to work on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals.”

In May, President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a relief strategy in line with the estimated impacts of unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and other trade disruptions. The Market Facilitation Program (MFP), Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP), and Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) will assist agricultural producers while President Trump works to address long-standing market access barriers.

Secretary Perdue was joined by Under Secretary Bill Northey; Acting Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps; and USDA’s Chief Economist, Dr. Rob Johannson to explain the details of the package, which will help producers of a wide variety of commodities impacted by trade disruptions.

USDA provides new trade aid details

Agricultural organizations reacted positively to the announcement. “While we are grateful for the continuing support for American agriculture from President Trump and Secretary Perdue, America’s farmers ultimately want trade more than aid. It is critically important to restore agricultural markets and mutually beneficial relationships with our trading partners around the world,” said American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall.

Under the plan, eligible U.S. pork producers will receive $11 per head based on inventory between April 1-May 15, 2019 and USDA will make pork purchases of $208 million to support its programs for the food insecure. National Pork Producers Council President David Herring says they “are grateful to the Trump administration for providing partial relief as hog farmers have incurred significant losses due to trade disputes that have lingered for more than a year.”

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Lynn Chrisp says farmers definitely need aid at this time. “It’s no secret that farmers are facing difficult decisions amid wet spring weather, trade disputes and tariffs, and demand destruction in the ethanol market. While NCGA’s focus remains markets, we welcome USDA’s quick rollout of MFP 2.0 and the Department’s creative efforts to reorient MFP to better reflect market impacts and support American farmers. We look forward to learning more about how MFP will work for corn farmers.”

AgWired Animal, AgWired Energy, AgWired Precision, Audio, NCGA, NPPC, USDA

REG to Close New Boston, Texas Biodiesel Plant

Cindy Zimmerman

Renewable Energy Group (REG) is closing its New Boston, Texas biorefinery “due to challenging business conditions and continued federal policy uncertainty, most notably the long-lapsed federal biodiesel tax credit.”

The company acquired the 15-million gallon per-year biodiesel plant near Texarkana, Texas in October 2012 and began producing biodiesel there several months later. The facility is capable of running both high and low free fatty acid feedstocks and has truck and rail access.

“We truly appreciate all the efforts of our team and those that support our New Boston plant,” said Brad Albin, Vice President of Manufacturing. “They significantly improved safety, demonstrated capacity, yield, quality and costs. However, these improvements could not overcome the unfavorable economics of the plant relative to our other options for ongoing focus and forward investment.”

The company is currently working with plant employees on relocation opportunities within the production network.

“This closure comes today as a result of the poor economics over the last 18 months resulting in large part from the uncertainty surrounding the Biodiesel Tax Credit,” said Cynthia J. Warner, REG President and CEO. “Despite significant bipartisan support, Congress’ inaction on this value-added incentive has led to unsustainable market conditions.”

Biodiesel, REG

Energy Secretary Contradicts EPA in Letter to Senator

Cindy Zimmerman

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) finally got an answer this week from the Department of Energy to a request he sent in April about the agency’s role in Small Refinery Exemptions, and it directly contradicts what the Environmental Protection Agency has been saying.

Contrary to assertions by the EPA, the Energy Department confirmed in a letter to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that the EPA has issued so-called “economic hardship” exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to small refineries, often owned by billion-dollar oil companies, even when the Energy Department found that the refineries faced little or no actual “hardship.”

In a response to an April 10 letter from Grassley, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry outlined the role of the Energy Department in the issuance of these waivers and indicated EPA has on at least one occasion issued an exemption when the department recommended no exemption and has ignored recommendations to grant only partial exemptions in other cases. Perry also indicated that the department has not changed how these analyses are applied or scored from the prior administration.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Geoff Cooper says the letter clearly shows EPA ignored the recommendations and analysis provided by DOE. “The demand destruction that has resulted from these exemptions has been real and significant,” said Cooper. “Ethanol producers and the corn farmers who supply our industry are facing some of the worst market conditions in a generation, and these small refinery bailouts are largely to blame for that. We urge President Trump and Administrator Wheeler to restore some integrity and judiciousness to the small refiner exemption program, and ensure that any exempted renewable fuel blending requirements are redistributed to non-exempt refiners.”

Cooper said the letter also corroborates information recently uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by RFA, in which a former EPA official warned former Administrator Scott Pruitt that granting certain exemptions “would be a clear violation of Mr. Pruitt’s oath of office.” Other information uncovered in the FOIA request shows the White House knew exemptions were being granted without any demonstration of “true economic hardship.”

EPA, Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA