Growth Energy Advocates on the Hill

Ethanol industry leaders from Growth Energy took their story about the importance of biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to dozens of lawmakers and administration officials this week in Washington DC as part of the organization’s Advocacy Conference.

On Tuesday, some 100 of them heard from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who repeating his support for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

“I will tell you this: that I have conveyed and will continue to convey to the EPA and to the country my support for this industry,” Vilsack said, calling USDA a partner in the renewable fuels industry. “I don’t want anybody to leave here today thinking that at USDA there is any waver on our support for this industry,” he added.

The Growth Energy representatives had over 100 meetings on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Dan Sanders of Front Range Ethanol in Colorado says it was significant they were there on the anniversary of 9/11 “talking to leaders about how important the RFS is to America’s economy and to national security.” Sanders felt that their message was well received by lawmakers.

Jeff Lautt, CEO of POET, agreed. “This is an industry that is domestic and cannot be exported. You cannot transfer this industry out of the U.S.” he said. “The nearly half million jobs this industry has created are driving energy independence, they’re creating fuel that’s being consumed here. Once you explain that, they understand.”

ReadiJet Fuel Ready for the Skies

ReadiJet Fuel, a drop-in renewable fuel for aviation use, is ready to fly the skies. Developer Applied Research Associates (ARA) along with Chevron Lummus Global (CLG), are partnering with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to evaluate the fuel in flight. The fuel, produced under contract to AFRL, was produced by ARA from Agrisoma’s Resonance feedstock crop (mustard oilseed family) using CLG’s and ARA’s Biofuel ISOCONVERSION process.

The jet fuel will first be tested by ARA and NRC against ASTM standards and military specifications in ground based engine tests. Once ReadiJet is given the green light, a test flight will occur with the NRC Falcon-20 twin engine jet. According to ARA, this will be the first time in the world a jet aircraft is powered by 100%, un-blended, renewable jet fuel that meets petroleum jet fuel specifications.

“The integrated ARA/CLG Biofuel ISOCONVERSION process and Agrisoma’s Resonance feedstock provide a pathway for fulfilling the commercial and military markets’ requirements for alternative fuels at parity with petroleum while spurring opportunities for farmers,” said Chuck Red, ARA’s Alternative Fuels Program Lead. “We look forward to this partnership with NRC to help us validate the combination of Canadian developed and grown feedstocks and our processing technology as a leading alternative fuel solution.”

During the test flight a second aircraft, the National Research Council’s T33 jet, will fly behind the Falcon 20 to measure the emissions of the engine operating on both the ReadiJet biofuel and on conventional petroleum-based aviation fuel. Systems onboard the Falcon 20 will allow NRC’s flight research team to switch back and forth between the two fuel types throughout the flight. These data will be used to evaluate biojet fuel emissions of an aircraft engine operating on 100% biofuel. The end goal is to validate the jet fuel for use by the aviation industry.

Solar Freedom Now Campaign Launched

The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) has launched a new campaign, Solar Freedom Now (SFN). The initiative aims to attack a major barrier to solar energy deployment – cost and the paperwork and red tape that doubles installation costs. The goal of ASES is to make it fast and easy to install rooftop solar panels. The first step of the Solar Freedom Now campaign is to begin working at the grassroots level to educate consumers about the issue and segway that into wide spread support.

Studies out of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, both conclude that in the U.S., higher prices are almost exclusively related to the paperwork it takes to “officially” install a standard rooftop system.

“Solar systems cost twice as much in the U.S. compared to Germany,” said solar industry leader Barry Cinnamon. This red tape is holding back the industry from creating even more jobs, driving innovation, and building true energy security for our nation.”

ASES says a national approach to paperwork and red tape is required. Susan Greene, ASES president, said approximately 18,000 cities and 3,000 utilities and all 50 states have set different rules and procedures for installation. This needs to be coordinated and legislated into one nationwide approach. Solar Freedom Now, said Greene, is a coordinated effort across the county to do just this.

“It takes only days to install a system in Germany compared to months in the U.S,” said former Sharp Solar executive Ron Kenedi. “I can tell you from personal experience — as well as 30 years in the solar industry — that we can install safe, code-compliant systems here in the U.S. just as fast as they do in Germany. All the extra time, paperwork and inspections simply add to the installed cost of our systems.”

USDA Slightly Lowers Corn Crop

USDAThe September crop production forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture slightly lowers this year’s drought stricken corn crop to 10.7 billion bushels, with an average yield of 122.8 bushels per acre – the lowest since 1995. That would still be the eighth-largest corn crop in history, despite the worst drought conditions in more than 50 years.

On the demand side, the latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate increased 2012/13 livestock feed demand by 75 million bushels to 4.15 billion. Corn use for ethanol and co-products was unchanged at 4.5 billion bushels. However, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) notes that because about one-third of every bushel of corn used for ethanol returns to the feed market as distillers grains, feed use will account for approximately 5.5 billion bushels in 2012/13 on a net basis, compared to net corn use for ethanol of 3.15 billion.

“This report should bring some calm and increased certainty to the markets,” said RFA President Bob Dinneen. “With each passing day, we have a better sense of the size of this year’s crop. We are thankful that it appears very little additional damage was done to the corn crop in late August and early September. It is truly remarkable that even in the face of the worst drought in 50 years and the hottest July in recorded history, U.S. farmers were able to produce a corn crop of this size. This morning’s report also clearly shows that all end users are sharing in the pain and participating in demand rationing. The notion that the ethanol industry is somehow insulated from demand rationing because of the RFS is shown to be patently false, with ethanol use projected down 10% from last year and feed use reduced by less than 6%.”

Globally, USDA is projecting the second-largest corn crop in history. Production in Argentina is up more than 30% over last year, while Mexico increased output 19%, South Africa 17%, Canada 9%, and China 4%. At 2.71 billion metric tons, USDA is also expecting the total 2012/13 grain supply (coarse grains, wheat, and rice) to be the second-largest ever. The U.S. ethanol industry is expected to use just 2.9% of the global grain supply in 2012/13.

Ethanol Producers Support Farm Bill Now

A growing coalition of organizations is calling on Congress to pass a five-year, comprehensive farm bill before the current legislation expires on September 30.

A rally today on Capitol Hill will feature representatives from many of the Farm Bill Now coalition groups, and many others will be there in support, including Growth Energy. CEO Tom Buis says members of Growth Energy have been meeting with members of Congress and the administration this week to discuss maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and farm policy has been a part of those discussions.

“Every meeting that I was in, the farm bill came up,” Buis said during a press conference this morning in Washington DC. “Although most of the comments from the lawmakers indicated that it probably is not going to happen before September 30.”

Buis says they are supportive of the Senate passed version of the legislation, which does contain an energy title and is adequately funded. “We would hope they would pass it,” he said, noting that not having a farm bill creates uncertainty for agriculture. “Not knowing what the programs are going to be makes it very difficult for people to operate.”

Buis formerly served as president of the National Farmers Union before taking over as CEO of Growth Energy in 2009.

Tom Buis audio comment here: Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis

Wind Farms – A Win for America

According to a new report, “American Wind Farms: Breaking Down the Benefits from Planning to Production,” released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), on average a 250 megawatt wind farm will create 1,079 jobs throughout the sector including manufacturing, construction engineering and management. Yet, NRDC says the benefits don’t end there. A second study, “At Wind Speed: How the U.S. Wind Industry is Rapidly Growing Our Local Economies,” on the secondary impacts of wind energy also shows that wind farms help to revitalize communities by generating new taxes, lease payments to landowners, and economic development revenues.

While the wind industry generates around 50,000 megawatts of clean energy and employs nearly 75,000 Americans, it is in jeopardy because Congress has not renewed the 2.2 cent per kilowatt Production Tax Credit (PTC) that’s set to expire at the end of this year. The Senate is expected to take up the PTC as early as this week.

NRDC policy advocate Cai Steger, co-author of the report, said: “Every time a wind farm gets built, American jobs are created. These reports show what the PTC has done for the wind industry – and why it’s essential that it is extended.”

The NRDC supply chain report says that jobs are created at 14 different steps along the way of building a wind farm. Non-construction businesses account for an estimated 557 jobs. They include 432 workers in manufacturing, 80 in planning and development, 18 in sales and distribution and 27 in operations and maintenance.

Construction jobs add another 522 jobs to a typical wind farm. These workers are spread between three categories, with 273 working on on-site civil works, such as roads, and foundations; 202 working on the installation of the wind turbines and 47 working on on-site electrical work, such as grid connection.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet is leading efforts in the Senate to extend the PTC. “The case is clear. The wind energy industry supports jobs and drives economic development. It’s time for Congress to make extending the bi-partisan wind PTC a top priority. In Colorado and across the country, workers are already paying the price for Congressional inaction on the PTC. Those jobs losses are only a glimpse of what could happen if we let the tax credit expire.”

RFS Waiver Comment Period Extended

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a 15 day extension of the comment period on the requests for a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), who filed for an extension on August 30, 2012, applauded EPA’s decision. They requested the waiver so corn growers and other energy crop farmers had a chance to participate more fully in the process. This will also enable the EPA to have a more accurate picture of the year’s final corn supply.

“We are pleased to see the EPA take this important action to help ensure that the process outlined in the Renewable Fuel Standard moves forward in a thoughtful, analytical fashion,” said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer. “This extension will allow our farmers, who are currently harvesting the crop, to participate more fully and for a more accurate assessment of the final corn supply to emerge.”

In its weekly crop progress report issued yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 15 percent of the nation’s corn has been harvested – triple the five-year average at this point in time. The reason is the impact of this year’s devastating drought and the recognition that farmers won’t gain much by delaying their corn harvest. Tomorrow the USDA will be releasing its monthly production and supply-and-demand reports.

The comment period was originally scheduled to close at the end of September, but will now remain open until October 11, 2012. During a previous comment period in 2008 for a partial waiver of the RFS, EPA received more than 15,000 submissions from throughout the country.

FFV Drivers in Nebraska Save More at Pump

Flex fuel vehicles in Nebraska are on the rise. The state has shown an increase of FFVs by more than 20 percent from last year with greater than 143,000 registered in the state. FFVs can run on ethanol fuel blends up to E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline). Many drivers are unaware they have an FFV. Most FFVs now have yellow gas caps and/or an FFV logo on the back of the vehicle. Still not sure? Check the U.S. Department of Energy’s website to identify all makes and models of flex fuel vehicles.

There are several benefits for FFV drivers: saving money, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting Nebraska’s economy. Several Nebraska fuel stations are selling E85 at 68 cents per gallon under regular unleaded prices. But economic studies have found that ethanol lowers gas prices for everyone – even non-FFV drivers – by extending our gas supply.

“FFV drivers have an opportunity to make more fuel choices at the pump,” said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. “These choices have the additional advantage of lower prices than gasoline. More drivers are realizing the benefits of renewable fuels like ethanol by switching to FFVs.”

Tomorrow, FFV drivers in Nebraska can save even more. Two gas stations in Grand Island are offering discounts on ethanol fuels on September 12 from 11-am to 1 pm. The stations are Pump & Pantry, 1235 Allen Drive, and Aurora Cooperative A-Stop at 4155 E. Hwy 30 in Grand Island.

Drivers of flex fuel vehicles can find details about additional ethanol fuel promotions by checking the Nebraska Ethanol Board web site.

STAR Energy Powers Farm Progress Show

The star of the recent Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa was the fuel that kept all the engines running – and that was supplied by STAR Energy, a retail division of GROWMARK that covers northwest Iowa.

“What’s unique with us is we’re an all energy company,” STAR Energy representative Jason Stauffer said. “We solely stay focused on the energy products of propane, diesel fuel, lubricants and the retail service stations.”

Acquired by GROWMARK in 2007, STAR Energy offers a complete line of refined and renewable fuels, lubricants, additives and propane to residential, commercial and industrial consumers and operates more than 20 retail fuel locations.

STAR Energy is also the official fuel supplier for the Farm Progress Show in Iowa, which Stauffer says is a big job. “There’s a lot of work that goes into it,” he said. “There’s a lot of generation units, the shuttles that run people up and down the roads and the field demonstrations where we’re running our flagship GROWMARK product, Dieselex Gold.

It was the first time for the Farm Progress Show to get the new Dieselex Gold reformulation just introduced in February. “These guys put a lot of time, effort, money and resources into these shows. The last thing they want is to go out there and do field demonstrations in front of thousands of people and have the equipment not perform to the standards they want,” said Stauffer. “We know the Dieselex Gold package is the best fuel to power and protect that diesel engine.”

Listen to an interview with Jason here: Jason Stauffer interview

Solar Industry Responds to Anti-Dumping Allegations

The Chinese solar community is responding to anti-dumping allegations of Chinese solar products. The European Commission is currently reviewing charges by several European companies. Representatives of JinkoSolar, based in Shanghai, said the charges are unfounded and unfair and do not reflect the reality of the highly-competitive global solar industry. They also believe that trade protectionism will only harm fair competition in the market, hinder development of the entire PV industry and also harm consumers.

“JinkoSolar, as one of the leading photovoltaic manufacturers in the industry, will actively cooperate with the European Commission’s investigation. The company will continue expanding into emerging markets, including China, South Africa, India and Australia to alleviate possible impacts that could result from the potential trade friction,” said Xiande Li, JinkoSolar’s Chairman.

Complaints were lodged in July of this year that solar panels and their key components imported from China enter the European market at prices below market value. According to a press statement, in terms of import value affected, this is the most significant anti-dumping complaint the European Commission has received so far.

Dr. Peng Fang, CEO of JA Solar, also based in Shanghai, responded by saying, “JA Solar believes in fair and open trade. As a public company, we conduct all our business transactions in a transparent manner. The imposition of antidumping tariffs on Chinese solar products would be highly damaging to both the European and global solar markets. Strong and fair competition across the global solar market has been the catalyst for rapid innovation and has allowed millions of consumers in Europe and around the world to access clean and affordable renewable energy. We believe that antidumping tariffs would jeopardize the huge progress the industry has made in recent years.”

The Commission will respond to the charges within the next nine months. During this time, an investigation will be conducted and it will determined if any measures will be taken.