More Dairy Production Benefits Ethanol Industry

Like a rising tide that floats all boats, rising milk production helps many sectors of agriculture, including ethanol, according to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

The latest USDA estimate released earlier this week shows milk production in the United States continues to expand, with February 2012 production up 8% compared to a year ago thanks to a one percent expansion in the dairy cow herd and a seven percent productivity increase, as measured by milk produced per cow.

“As an agricultural community, we certainly look at growth and gains across the industry favorably,” said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer. “This trend benefits corn farmers, like myself, directly also though as increased milk production often translates into increased demand for feed, including corn and ethanol co-product distillers dried grains. I see it as a win-win-win as consumers benefit from a larger milk supply, dairy and corn farmers benefit from increased production and the ethanol industry benefits from the increased demand for the high quality feed ingredients produced along with fuel.”

During the current corn marketing year, estimates are that the nation’s dairy cattle will consume nearly 800 million bushels of corn, or about six percent of total corn usage. The market for DDGs also continues to expand as demand from the dairy sector rises due to increasing awareness and understanding of their quality, affordability and other benefits.

Hydropower Favored in Africa, Latin America

Africa and Latin America are taking great leaps to hydropower according to a new report by GBI Research.  Today, hydropower leads the renewable category for the generation of power and is expected to remain in the lead globally despite investments in other renewable resources.  Around the world, hydropower has large support in the form of financial policies and incentives. This had made it gain interest as a viable way to meet increasing electricity demand.

The report predicts that Africa will have become a leading hydropower market by 2020 due to the large amount of water in the country, especially in Mozambique and Ethiopia.  Develop has gone further yet because of the lack of proper infrastructure and investment, which hinders both maintenance of current plants as well as the development of new hydropower plants. Yet there is increasing demand for energy and as a result governments are putting policies and incentives in place to secure industry investments.

In addition to Africa, South and Central America also hold high levels of untapped hydropower energy.  In 2009-2010, Venezuela suffered through a national electricity crisis while ironically it has large amounts of unexploited hydropower energy. Once realized, the government changed it focus towards the development of the industry and several hydropower projects are already underway in the country and being executed by Corpoelec.

In 2005-2010 the global hydropower capacity increased at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4.2% for an increase of 601.1 Giga Watts (GW) in 2005 to 739.2 GW in 2010. The report estimates that installed capacity will grow to 1,051.1 GW by 2020.

You can read the report abstract,  Hydro Power Market to 2020 – Energy Management Strategies and Green Funds to Drive Emerging Markets in Latin America and Africa, here.

IFRA: Back Biodiesel

The rule to increase the 2013 Biomass-Based Diesel volumes under the RFS to 1.28 billion gallons needs swift action by President Obama according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IFRA). The organization sent a letter to the president urging his administration to keep its track record of support for biodiesel and approve the requested increase for 2013.

IRFA President Brad Albin said that with biodiesel plants in nearly every state in the U.S, including 13 plants in Iowa, the increase in volumes would “support family-wage, skilled, green-collar jobs while decreasing our reliance on costly foreign oil and harmful tailpipe emissions.”

According to a study by Cardo ENTRIX, the .28 billion increase would support more than 10,000 new jobs. In total, the industry would contribute $2.7 billion to household income and $4.9 billion in GDP. As a U.S. Senator, Obama was an active biodiesel supporter. However, at the end of 2011, his administration announced that it would delay the decision on the RFS volume increase and the industry is still waiting for an answer.

“This is an important issue for the biodiesel industry and absolutely critical here in Iowa. IRFA calls on the Obama Administration to approve this modest volume increase as soon as possible,” said IRFA Biofuels Manager Grant Menke. He added that by the end of 2011, the industry was operating at a capacity of 1.4 billion gallons and is capable of meeting the increased target.

Ethanol Stocks Hit Record High

eiaAccording to the latest figures from the Energy Information Administration, ethanol stocks hit an all-time record last week of 22.7 million barrels, equivalent to a 27-day supply.

Ethanol production for the week ending 3/16/12 averaged 893,000 barrels per day (b/d) – or 37.51 million gallons daily. That is up slightly from the previous week and makes the 4-week average for ethanol production so far this year total 897,000 b/d for an annualized rate of 13.75 billion gallons.

Meanwhile, gasoline demand for the same week averaged 351.9 million gallons daily. Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production was 10.66%. Since the beginning of the year, weekly gasoline demand has averaged 345.7 million gallons daily, meaning the annualized E10 blend wall is 12.6 billion gallons.

On the co-products side, ethanol producers were using 13.540 million bushels of corn daily to produce ethanol and 100,506 metric tons of livestock feed, 90,677 metric tons of which were distillers grains. The rest is comprised of corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal. Additionally, ethanol producers were providing 4.1 million pounds of corn oil daily.

Biodiesel Production Slips from Late 2011 Growth

U.S. biodiesel production has dropped from the late 2011 records when the industry exceeded 100 million gallons per month for five consecutive months and reached a peak of 160 million gallons in December.

Still, 135 million gallons of biodiesel were produced in January and February of this year according to figures released by the EPA, an increase over the same months last year when production totaled less than 80 million gallons.

The drop-off reflects lost momentum since Congress has allowed the biodiesel tax incentive to expire and the Obama Administration delayed finalizing next year’s biodiesel volume requirement under the Renewable Fuel Standard, according to Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board (NBB).

“These are solid numbers that show the biodiesel industry is on pace to meet the 1 billion gallon RFS requirement this year, but they also reflect some of the missed opportunities for growth and jobs that we’ve seen with the loss of the tax credit and the continued uncertainty about next year’s RFS volume,” Steckel said. “With the tax credit and clear RFS growth in place, we think these numbers would be better.”

Last year, the biodiesel industry produced a record of nearly 1.1 billion gallons, supporting more than 39,000 jobs across the country and helping to reduce U.S. dependence on skyrocketing global petroleum prices.

Conventional Food is Healthier Than Organic?

Our latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Is “Organic” food healthier than “Conventional” food?” The majority of respondents said No at 60 percent with only 40 percent saying Yes. Most of the people I know don’t think organic means healthier and although they like I will eat something that is certified organic we just don’t want to pay more for it. Do these results surprise you?

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “What do you think is a fair “death tax” rate?” Permanent estate tax relief and reform is extremely important not only to farmers but everyone regardless of what business you own or work for. Seriously, why should the government tax your estate just because you died? Didn’t you pay taxes all your life building that estate including real estate taxes, income taxes, etc? Here’s to hoping we get some reasonable long term resolution to this issue.

ZimmPoll is sponsored by Rhea+Kaiser, a full-service advertising/public relations agency.

Agriculture Secretary Encourages E15 Adoption

vilsack at national ethanol conferenceThe best way to help the U.S. ethanol industry right now is to encourage the adoption of E15 by fuel retailers, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

During a telephone press conference on Tuesday promoting USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Vilsack was asked by a reporter what can be done to help the struggling ethanol sector right now.

“If you take a look at the long term history of ethanol, you’ll see that there are peaks and valleys in this commodity,” Vilsack noted. “Our focus is primarily on encouraging blenders to embrace E15. EPA has authorized the use of E15 and this obviously would be a God send.”

Vilsack added that they want blenders to register with EPA to get E15 in the market and they are looking for ways to encourage distribution. “At the same time, we’re also looking at alternative ways to produce ethanol through non-food feedstocks so we can spread the good work this industry’s doing in keeping gas prices down further than they would otherwise be.”

The secretary referenced an Iowa State University study that concluded ethanol helps save motorists up to $1.30 per gallon. “So we obviously need a robust biofuel industry,” he said.

Listen to or download Vilsack’s comments here: Secretary Vilsack on E15

First Rooftop Sun-tracking Solar Power System Installed

New sun-tracking solar devices have been installed by NEXUS EnergyHomes to the rooftop of a row house residence on Federal Hill in Baltimore, Md.
The device, a Dual-Panel Tracker (DPT), consists of two 235 Watt solar panels attached to a sun-tracking mount affixed to the roof. An advanced GPS-controlled drive unit rotates the panels to follow the sun and capture 30 to 45 percent more energy than conventional fixed panels on a flat roof. DPT is manufactured by Advanced Technology & Research (ATR) Corp. based in Columbia, Md.

“With electricity prices reaching unprecedented rates, American home owners are demanding better energy choices,” says NEXUS CEO and President, Paul Zanecki. “This sun-tracker system is the first of its kind to offer higher performance results that make it that much easier to reach electric net-zero goals.”

In 2010 alone, Maryland residential customers paid an average of 24 percent (14.32/kW) more than the national average (11.54/kW per hour).

Carl Chirichella, the row house home owner and an engineer for ATR, was initially intrigued by the technology but says the financial incentives were also very compelling to him as a homeowner. He can expect to see a nearly 20 percent reduction in his electric bill with just the one dual-panel system installed so far. But he can add more at any time. Five such systems would allow him to achieve an electrical “net-zero” balance for his home—eliminating the electrical bill, and potentially offering him energy credits.

“Utilizing the dual-panel tracker is an innovative solution to generating on-site renewable energy within the small footprint that city living affords,” Chirichella says.

Financial incentives beyond the reduction or elimination of power bills include solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs), clean energy grants, and residential renewable energy tax credits. These incentives combined with monthly energy savings will allow homeowners to recoup their solar investment in about 5 years. After that, the system is paid for and will supply free electric power for many years.

Miscanthus Genetic Map Completed

The first comprehensive genetic mapping of miscanthus has been completed. Researchers have been studying the feedstock as a possible source for bioenergy. The goal of the project is to accelerate product development. The results were published in the online journal PLoS One and the project is a collaboration between Ceres and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University in Wales.

The project entailed creating a collection of genetically related plants and then sequencing and analyzing DNA. Researchers mapped all 19 chromosomes of mischanthus and over several years have analyzed more than 400 million DNA sequences. The benefit of this research is that by isolating positive genes, for example a marker that would yield more biomass per plant, researchers can then focus on that gene, along with others, to create bioenergy superior feedstocks.

Today, miscanthus is primarily grown in Europe and used for electricity generation. It is not commercially viable as a bioenergy feedstock due to high production costs and few miscanthus producers. Ceres Chief Scientific Officer Richard Flavell, PhD, FRS, CBE said that the company will be able to more rapidly introduce important crop traits. The company is currently evaluating various varieties in several locations and anticipates that its varieties of miscanthus will require less time, effort and money to be bred for different environments.

In the past the majority of miscanthus research focused on field trials and this is the first large-scale project of its kind to focus on its genetics. Iain Donnison, PhD and head of the bioenergy team at IBERS added that, “The joint miscanthus development programme with Ceres has provided new insight into the evolution of the species as well as the similarities and differences in populations across different countries and environments.”

USDA Plays Biofuels “Matchmaker”

USDAThe U.S. Department of Agriculture will be hosting a “match making day” later this month to promote connections between agricultural producers of energy feedstocks with biorefiners seeking to produce biofuels for commercial sale and consumption.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Navy, U.S. Department of Energy, and the Federal Aviation Administration will also attend the March 30 event at USDA headquarters with the goal being to improve awareness and increase understanding of the biofuels supply-chain links between those involved in feedstock production and the processors of that feedstock into biofuels, including logistical challenges, potential roles of service providers, and potential pitfalls.

At this meeting, federal officials will provide a short profile of each section of the supply chain and representatives from the participating stakeholders will respond with brief presentations that outline their experiences in that respective supply chain sector, barriers encountered and lessons learned. They will outline potential growth and opportunities.
Short presentations will be made at the top of each hour leaving time for discussion at each table, at which a representative from each of the sectors of the biofuels supply chain should be seated, as well as one or more government official.

The event is free but participants must register by sending an email to: OSEC-RESupplyChain@osec.usda.gov with information on company, names and titles of attendees and position on the biofuels production value chain (i.e., feedstock seed developer or provider, feedstock grower or harvester, feedstock processor, feedstock transporter, feedstock storer, bio-refiner, feedstock machinery manufacturer/provider, other). More information is available by calling 202-401-0461.