Final 2017 Numbers Show Record Ethanol Production

Cindy Zimmerman

The official tally for U.S. ethanol production in 2017 is 15.84 billion gallons, up three percent from the previous year and a new record, according to the latest data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen says the data also indicates record domestic ethanol blending, with 14.4 billion gallons blended into 142.9 billion gallons of finished gasoline, equating to a record average blend rate of 10.08%.

“At this point, the so-called ‘blend wall’ is little more than a speed bump on the road to greater consumer choice, lower pump prices, and cleaner air,” said Dinneen. “Even though 2017 gasoline demand was down a bit from the record level seen in 2016, domestic ethanol consumption was up. That means consumption of blends like E15 and flex fuels like E85 is continuing to rapidly expand across the country.”

RFA notes there has been a four-fold increase in domestic ethanol production since 2005 when the original Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was adopted and just 3.91 billion gallons were produced. “Clearly, the RFS is working as intended to transform our transportation fuel market and drive expanded use of domestically produced, high octane ethanol,” Dinneen said.

While 2017 data for individual state ethanol blend rates is not yet available, data recently released by EIA showed that 30 states and the District of Columbia had average inclusion rates above 10.0% in 2016.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA

Perdue Answers RINs Question During Town Hall

Cindy Zimmerman

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue held a town hall on the main stage in the Commodity Classic Trade Show Thursday and answered some questions from a few of the hundreds of farmers who gathered to watch and listen.

Former National Corn Growers Association president Pam Johnson of Iowa wanted to know specifically if the secretary supported a cap on RIN prices. “Because as a farmer, I do care about RINs, because we would be limited to the demand we have now,” said Johnson.

“No, I don’t think a cap on RINs is the solution, but we’ve got to engage in how to use this opportunity to grow demand…we can’t sit back and just say no, no, no, no,” Perdue answered. “My goal is to get the RVP waiver in a way where we can have E15 pumps be the norm by 2022.”

Listen to that exchange here:
Pam Johnson/Secretary Perdue

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Study Finds RIN Cap Would Devastate Biofuels

Cindy Zimmerman

A new analysis by University of Illinois economist Scott Irwin finds that the impact of a 10-cent cap on RIN prices, as proposed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, would be “catastrophic” for the renewable fuels industry.

Specifically, such a price cap would serve as the mortar in the oil industry’s attempt to rebuild the “blend wall.” Irwin finds that “…the RINs price cap would remove all incentives for blending E15 and E85” and would be equivalent to “waiving…the conventional ethanol mandate down to the level of the E10 blend wall.”

Meanwhile, the analysis finds that if “…ethanol usage could be pushed up just a few hundred million gallons, …D6 [conventional biofuel RIN] prices would naturally fall to just a few cents. An RVP waiver for E15 might just do the trick.” Still, Irwin finds that the biofuel and agricultural industries would be the losers in any “deal” that exchanges an E15 RVP waiver for a 10-cent RIN price cap. “Agricultural and biofuels interests will find this tradeoff distinctly unappealing, while refining interests will tend to have just the opposite reaction,” he said.

Link to full analysis.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA, RFS, RINS

President Meets With RFS Stakeholders

Cindy Zimmerman

A White House meeting Thursday with representatives from both the biofuels and refinery industries was the latest effort this week to try and find a compromise on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that is acceptable to both sides.

Biofuels representatives at the meeting included Todd Becker of Green Plains Renewable Energy; Jeff Broin, POET; Charlie Good, Iowa fuel retailer; Bill Horan, Western Iowa Energy; Randy Howard, REG; and Rick Schwarck, Absolute Energy. Three refiner representative, four senators, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, and USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky rounded out the group.

Reports are that increasing use of E15 and putting a cap on Renewable Identification Number (RIN) prices were the main options discussed, and ethanol interests hope President Trump favors the E15 approach.

“We continue to believe the appropriate response to unfounded concerns about Renewable Identification Number (RIN) prices is to expand ethanol use by providing RVP parity, allowing E15 and higher blends to be sold year round,” said Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen.

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said, “The President very clearly understands that the path forward is to allow sales of E15 year-round, promote growth, and put more RINs on the market.”

American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings was pleased that retailer Charlie Good, featured in ACE’s Flex Fuel Forward campaign, was included in the meeting to explain how “RVP relief for E15 would immediately reduce RIN prices” while capping RINs would “destroy demand for renewable fuels and raise pump prices for consumers.”

ACE, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Growth Energy, RFA

Perdue Pledges “Unequivocal” Support for RFS

Cindy Zimmerman

A lot of drama and speculation preceded the appearance of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at Commodity Classic, thanks to some reports questioning his support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), so he wasted no time in stating his “unequivocal” support for the law.

“I have not and will not support any policies in this country that diminish the demand, undermine RFS and are harmful to our agricultural producers,” Perdue said in his address.

The secretary took additional questions about the issue, resulting from the White House meeting earlier this week, during the press conference and even talked about a couple of other issues besides biofuels.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, speech:
Secretary Perdue Speech
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, press conference:
Secretary Perdue Press Conference

Post Update:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue held a short town hall on the main stage in the Commodity Classic Trade Show. He answered some direct questions about the RFS and RINs from corn growers: Secretary Perdue Main Stage Town Hall

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Second Iowa Plant Commits to Monarch Habitat

Cindy Zimmerman

Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE) is preparing to establish a Monarch Fueling Station on its property near Council Bluffs, the second Iowa biofuels facility to commit to creating monarch butterfly habitat.

“We saw creating a Monarch Fueling Station as a great opportunity to protect an important aspect of our state’s environment,” said SIRE CEO Brian Cahill. “The SIRE board views this as a win-win. We can provide critical habitat for monarchs and other pollinators instead of paying someone to mow grass.”

Because of their migratory patterns, monarchs need small patches of habitat throughout the state and Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel plants are tend to have a lot of green space on their properties making them excellent partners for this effort.

The Monarch Fueling Station Project was established by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) in partnership with the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium in December 2017. To learn more about the IRFA Monarch Fueling Station Project, contact IRFA at or 515-252-6249.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, Iowa RFA

Northey Confirmed But No White House Deal on RFS

Cindy Zimmerman

Bill Northey is at last free to take the job at USDA that he was nominated for almost six months ago after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lifted his hold on the nomination and allowed the confirmation Tuesday. The Senate confirmed Northey on a voice vote to become USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation as Sens. Cruz, Pat Toomey (R-PA), Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa met with President Trump to discuss changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“We feel better today because we have Bill Northey,” said National Corn Growers Association president Kevin Skunes of North Dakota during a press conference at the kick off of the 2018 Commodity Classic in Anaheim Tuesday. “We believe there was no deal struck at the White House meeting.”

Audio file: NCGA Classic press conference

Suffice it to say, every agricultural group in the country is happy to see Bill Northey approved and hopes that means the rest of the jobs at USDA can be finally be filled. Ethanol organizations are also pleased that Sen. Cruz released his hold without any apparent deal that would undermine the RFS. “The general assessment so far is there is no deal, there’s going to be continued conversation,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen.

Audio file: Gaggle with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen

Growth Energy Senior Director of Government Affairs John Fuher was also pleased to hear there was no deal made during the White House meeting. “Our senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst really stood up for us and really presented an alternative case,” said Fuher.

Audio file: Interview with John Fuher, Growth Energy

President Trump has reportedly called for another meeting on Thursday with representatives from the ethanol and refinery industries.

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Industry Groups Anxious About White House RFS Meeting

Cindy Zimmerman

Biofuels and agricultural groups are anxiously awaiting the outcome of a meeting today between President Trump and four Republicans senators over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)

Trump will be meeting with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), who want to see changes in the RFS to protect refiners, and Iowa Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst, who want to protect the RFS. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue are also expected to attend the meeting.

In advance of the pow-wow today, a group of six leaders from farm and commodity organizations sent a letter to President Trump yesterday voicing support for the Renewable Fuels Standard. “The RFS, which sets targets for blending ethanol and biodiesel into our nation’s fuel supply, created new markets for our farmers, created new jobs in rural America, gave consumers more fuel choices, and improved our nation’s air quality,” reads the letter. It is signed by the leaders of the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Sorghum Producers, and National Association of Wheat Growers. The commodity organizations are all meeting this week for the annual Commodity Classic in Anaheim, where the White House meeting will be a major topic of discussion today.

The Renewable Fuels Association will be holding a press conference today at the Classic trade show to address the meeting. American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings said he was pleased to see the agricultural groups’ support. “Never before have U.S. farm groups spoken with such a unified and clear voice that they don’t want EPA or Congress messing with the Renewable Fuel Standard,” he said. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor is optimistic the industry will prevail, “Refinery owners are circulating the same old wish list, but their proposals to undermine our agricultural economy will never fly under a president who is truly committed to policies that protect America’s hardworking farmers.” And Fuels America has been running a television ad on FOX News this week urging ethanol supporters to thank President Trump for his promise to protect the RFS.

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Generating D3 RINS from Corn Kernel Fiber

carrie muehling

Producing cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber is where many ethanol plants are heading. But getting EPA approval on that type of project is not always easy. Jim Ramm of EcoEngineers explained why he believes this is the future of the industry at the 2018 National Ethanol Conference.

“It makes sense as an industry to maximize the return on the bushel of corn coming into the plant. It just makes sense. So to be able to take the lowest value feedstock coming in, which is the kernel fiber, and turn it into high value products on the back end, which is cellulosic ethanol, or additional cellulosic ethanol, makes sense. It also makes sense in terms of getting extra corn oil, and it makes sense in terms of creating high protein feeds,” said Ramm. “The other reason that it makes sense is just bringing down the carbon intensity of the ethanol over all.”

Ramm said the expansion to include this process is already happening in some areas.

Listen to Jim Ramm’s entire session from the National Ethanol Conference here: Generating D3 RINS From Corn Kernel Fiber, Jim Ramm, EcoEngineers

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RFA Chairman Pleased With Conference Turnout

Carrie Muehling

The 2018 National Ethanol Conference (NEC) saw a great turnout of people supporting the renewable fuels industry. Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Chairman Mick Henderson said exports continue to be a priority, as well as creating parity for E15 in domestic markets. Henderson said being a part of a trade organization like RFA is important when it comes to affecting policy.

“We all need to be on the same wavelength,” said Henderson. “If we don’t go to Washington with one voice … we’re going to get run over.”

Henderson said the National Ethanol Conference is a bit like a family reunion. He appreciates the networking opportunities and the time to learn more about opportunities within the industry, both domestic and globally.

Listen to Cindy’s interview here: Interview with RFA Chairman Mick Henderson

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