Groups Challenge EPA on SAFE Rule

Cindy Zimmerman

A coalition of agriculture and biofuels groups are challenging the Trump administration’s recent fuel efficiency rulemaking, on that grounds that it downplays the harm from reduced emission standards, ignores the efficiency and health benefits of higher ethanol blends, and fails to realize the promise of increased octane in gasoline.

The rule in question, known as the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficiency Vehicle Rule (SAFER), was finalized on April 30, 2020, reversing an Obama-era rule that called for significant improvements in vehicle efficiency. Issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it established a 1.5 percent increase in efficiency each year for light-duty vehicles, far short of the 5 percent increase in the existing rule. In the notice of proposed rulemaking, EPA requested information on octane levels and how they could be increased in accordance with the Clean Air Act, but ultimately failed to address these concerns in the final rule.

The legal challenge is being led by National Farmers Union (NFU), and includes the Governors Biofuel Coalition, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the Environment and Energy Study Institute, several NFU state and regional divisions, Glacial Lakes Energy, Siouxland Ethanol, and the Urban Air Initiative. Previously, the group filed comments focused on octane and related issues. In response to EPA’s failure to credibly consider and advance mid-level ethanol fuel blends as an alternative to conventional fuels, the groups filed a petition for review in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, NFU

Ethanol Production Coming Back

Cindy Zimmerman

U.S. ethanol production is slowly clawing its way upward to more normal levels after reaching record lows in April.

According to EIA data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association for the week ending June 26, ethanol production rose 0.8%, or 7,000 barrels per day (b/d), to 900,000 b/d—equivalent to 37.80 million gallons daily. Production remains tempered due to COVID-19 disruptions, coming in 16.7% below the same week in 2019. The four-week average ethanol production rate rose 4.1% to 868,000 b/d, equivalent to an annualized rate of 13.31 billion gallons.

Ethanol stocks diminished for the tenth consecutive week, down 4.1% to 20.2 million barrels and 11.7% below year-ago volumes. Inventories tightened across all regions and are at their lowest level since the first week of 2017.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA

Ethanol Exports Decline in May

Cindy Zimmerman

Exports of U.S. ethanol declined 32 percent in May to the smallest monthly volume in four years, according to Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) analyst Ann Lewis.

Most of the drop was due to Brazil, which imported just 1.7 million gallons of U.S. ethanol, down from almost 24 million. Exports to India were down six percent in May, but it was the top global market for U.S. ethanol at 14.9 million gallons.

Shipments picked up to Canada as 14.5 mg crossed the border (+34%), although tracking at a volume roughly half of recent norms. Export sales slowed to Mexico (9.0 mg, -35% from a surge in April) and South Korea (4.9 mg, -61%), but lifted to the Netherlands (6.7 mg), United Kingdom (4.2 mg), and Nigeria (3.1 mg). An annualized export pace of 1.57 billion gallons would be implied by prorating year-to-date sales, but seasonal factors and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could result in 2020 exports being below this level.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, Exports, RFA

ACE Launches Video Series on USDA HBIIP

Cindy Zimmerman

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) has launched a series of short fuel marketer-focused videos, along with a broader digital advertising campaign, to help fuel retailers understand and navigate the application process for USDA’s Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP).

The series on flexfuelforward.com is hosted by ACE Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty, a former convenience store owner who breaks down the application process with Tony Crooks and Kelly Bogle of the USDA office running the HBIIP program, to create content tailored for retailers and giving them the best chance at being awarded a grant.

“The HBIIP application can look pretty daunting to busy operators of single c-stores and small chains that don’t have departments or staff to handle this sort of thing. Retailers need to know they can complete the application process themselves, with a little help from us when they need it.” Lamberty said. “The goal of this video series is to break the HBIIP application into bite-sized pieces, so marketers can finish it off a little at a time.”

All thie month,leading up to the August 13 application deadline, retailers will be directed to the HBIIP resources through paid advertising on social media and in print and online convenience store industry publications and websites. Following the HBIIP push, the campaign focus will turn to E15 station conversions.

ACE, Retailers, USDA

ACE Disappointed With EPA Lack of Action

Cindy Zimmerman

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings says he is disappointed in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to issue an interim final rule by July 1 to increase the Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) for 2020 to ensure that the full 20.09 billion gallons required by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) are used due to the unanticipated drop in ethanol blending as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

This was one of three immediate steps Jennings outlined in an April 3 letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler that also urged the Agency to restore the 500 million gallons of remanded volume as ordered by the DC District Court in 2017 and nationally apply the Tenth Circuit Court precedent regarding small refinery exemptions by denying most of the pending waivers for the 2019 RFS compliance year. The Agency not only has the authority to take these steps but must take them to avoid being in violation of the RFS statute which specifically instructs EPA to set the total RVO at a level that ‘ensures the requirements’ of the statutory obligations are met.

“Nearly three months have passed on our requests and it appears the only action EPA has taken is to entertain 52 ‘new’ retroactive waiver requests for refiners,” said Jennings. “We can add this to the list of letdowns coming from the Agency with so many opportunities at its disposal to get the RFS back on track.”

ACE, EPA, Ethanol, Ethanol News

House Members Oppose “Gap Year” Waivers

Cindy Zimmerman

The Congressional Biofuels Caucus has added its voice to the many calling for EPA to deny the 52 so-called “gap year” Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Small Refinery Exemption (SRE) petitions received last month.

Co-Chairmen Rodney Davis (R-IL), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS), and more than two dozen other members of the bipartisan Caucus sent a letter to President Donald Trump this week urging him to “respect the Congressional intent of the RFS and the 10th Circuit Court’s recent ruling.”

The purpose of the petitions for retroactive SREs is geared toward waiving RFS requirements dating back to 2011 in an attempt to circumvent the recent 10th Circuit Court ruling which determined that only existing SREs could be extended, and that they must be tied to economic harm caused specifically by the RFS.

“The Trump Administration has now heard from Members of the House, Senators and Governors on this important issue for rural America,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Geoff Cooper. “Even the Environmental Protection Agency itself has noted there are significant ‘issues’ with these waivers, and we urge a speedy denial of these attempts by the oil industry to circumvent federal law and the recent court decision limiting waivers to extensions of ones previously received.”

National Biodiesel Board VP of Federal Affairs Kurt Kovarik adds, “EPA’s continued delay in rejecting these petitions will only exacerbate the economic challenges facing biodiesel and renewable diesel producers as well as soybean farmers during the national economic emergency.”

Related audio –
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler gives update on retroactive SRE requests 7/1
EPA Admin Wheeler comments (:51)

Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Cindy Axne (D-IA), as well as National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust, National Corn Growers CEO Jon Doggett, and Renewable Fuels Association CEO Geoff Cooper comment on challenges facing ethanol industry during recent Biofuels Caucus Town Hall.

Ethanol Report 6-25-20 (22:08)

Audio, Biodiesel, EPA, Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA

EPA Administrator Gives Update on Retroactive SREs

Cindy Zimmerman

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Wednesday that the agency will not be making an announcement on proposed 2021 Renewable Volume Obligations this week.

“There’s nothing coming out tomorrow on that,” Wheeler said during a press call to talk about environmental provisions under the USMCA. Since Friday is a federal holiday, that would mean it would be at least next week before the proposal might be released. Last year it was announced on July 5.

Wheeler also gave an update on the status of the 52 requests for retroactive waivers from blending obligations in previous years. “We have sent those applications over to the Department of Energy for their review, which is the first step in the process,” said Wheeler. “We’ve not gotten the recommendations back yet.”

Wheeler says there are a “number of issues” when it comes to considering the retroactive year waivers. “Some of these petitions go back to 2012, RINS from that year are no longer active…so there’s questions about whether they can show economic harm and what the remedy would be.”

EPA Admin Wheeler comments (:51)

Audio, Biodiesel, biofuels, EPA, Ethanol, Ethanol News

Optimus Helps DC Public Works Expand Biodiesel Fleet

Cindy Zimmerman

The D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) has been able to increase the number of heavy-duty fleet vehicles capable of running on renewable pure biodiesel (B100) by installing Optimus Technologies’ Vector System onto 17 new refuse trucks. The advanced fuel system allows the trucks to operate on B100 and reduces up to 86% of the vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions.

The DPW began an evaluation of the technology in 2018, when the Optimus system was installed on six garbage and recycling trucks. The Vector System allows these medium and heavy-duty vehicles to run on pure biodiesel, a cleaner fuel solution produced from waste fats and oils. The success of the technology prompted the department to amend an existing order of 17 refuse trucks to include the Optimus biodiesel system prior to their delivery to the DPW.

Additionally, in conjunction with delivery of the new B100 vehicles, DPW installed a 12,500 gallon refueling station on-site to support the project expansion. The station is equipped with Optimus’ SMARTFuel RFID technology that limits refueling solely to vehicles that are equipped to utilize B100. The biodiesel fuel for DPW’s trucks is being supplied by North America’s largest producer of biodiesel, Renewable Energy Group (REG).

The DPW’s switch to biofuels is a part of Washington D.C.’s efforts to achieve 50% greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2032, with the ultimate goal being an 80% reduction by 2050. By using 100% biodiesel, DPW has been able to exceed their 2050 carbon reduction target with the fleet today, despite heavy duty vehicles presenting one of the biggest challenges to sustainability. The DPW intends to have close to 100 trucks upgraded with Optimus Technologies’ biodiesel fuel systems within the next year.

Biodiesel, Trucks

House Committee Climate Crisis Plan Includes LCFS

Cindy Zimmerman

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis today released a comprehensive plan titled “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.”

The Climate Crisis Action Plan, released as a majority staff report, has received the early support of agricultural organizations and biofuels groups pleased to see the inclusion of a Low Carbon Fuel Standard in the recommendations.

The standard should set a technology-and feedstock-neutral benchmark for liquid and non-liquid fuels tied to a lifecycle assessment of the carbon intensity of the fuels. The carbon intensity standard should become more stringent (lower) over time. The lifecycle assessment should reflect the best-available science about the carbon intensity of fuel production, farming practices, land use changes, and crop productivity.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Geoff Cooper says they are encouraged by the Select Committee’s acknowledgement that renewable fuels like ethanol can play an important role in reducing the carbon impacts of our nation’s transportation sector in the future. “The Committee correctly points out that the LCFS policy model already has a proven track record and that renewable fuels have played a crucial role in achieving the objectives of the California LCFS. We also concur with the Committee’s position that high-octane, low-carbon fuels could deliver substantial carbon benefits at a low cost in the years ahead.”

RFA and the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) were among a broad coalition of stakeholders that worked together to developed a framework and set of guiding principles for a Midwest LCFS program.

“The Select Committee’s report not only cites our Midwest Clean Fuel Policy framework as a positive example of progress, it also mirrors our recommendations to reflect the best-available science for lifecycle assessments and reward farmers and biofuel producers using climate-smart practices that reduce carbon emissions, store soil carbon, and reduce nitrous oxide emissions,” said ACE CEO Brian Jennings.

ACE, Biodiesel, biofuels, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, RFA

SIRE Donates Hand Sanitizer for RFA Promotional Events

Cindy Zimmerman

Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE) has donated 1,000 bottles of its proprietary SIREtizer hand sanitizer to the Renewable Fuels Association to distribute at summer ethanol promotional events upcoming events, including the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, where RFA has had a presence for more than a decade.

“Like so many others in our industry, SIRE was able to step-up and help during this pandemic,” said SIRE CEO Mike Jerke. “We are pleased to be part of RFA’s educational efforts and demonstrate that ethanol is not only cleaning our air but is also vital in fighting this pandemic.”

“SIREtizer is more than just a label, it has become a source of trust for the community, especially in the fight against COVID-19,” said Justin Schultz, SIRE’s Regulatory Manager. “Our team at SIRE is happy to support the RFA and we hope our product will continue to put minds at ease.”

In addition to Sturgis, RFA plans for the travel-size bottles—sporting RFA’s popular “Ethanol: Fueled with Pride” shield—to be available at upcoming Crappie Masters tournaments, special events where the Kenny Hauk-RFA Flex Fuel E85 Jeep Wrangler is displayed, and races involving the RFA Sponsored Tidd Racing E85 Can-Am. Also, on Capitol Hill, bottles will be distributed to offices of Iowa’s federal elected officials.

SIRE is one of many RFA member plants that have stepped up and started or increased produced of ethyl alcohol for sanitizers since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA