E15 Update at #ACE15

ace15-lambertySteve Jobs once said “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” and American Coalition for Ethanol Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty believes that applies to E15 (15% ethanol blended gasoline) and other higher blends.

“What we’ve seen in the places where E15, E30, E85 have been shown to people, they like them,” said Lamberty during his industry update at the annual ACE conference this week in Omaha. “We need to keep doing what we’re doing and keep showing people the light.”

Lamberty talked about the experiences of some successful higher ethanol blend retailers like Charlie Good in Iowa and Bruce Vollan in South Dakota.

Listen to Ron’s update at the ACE conference here: Ron Lamberty, ACE Senior VP

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

RFA to AMA: Stop Propagating E15 Untruths

As the biofuels industry celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is calling on consumers to support legislation to stop the use and sales of E15 (15 percent ethanol/85 percent gasoline). In a press release AMA states, “The first 10 years under the Renewable Fuel Standard, established in 2005, represent a decade of misinformation from the ethanol lobby concerning safe fuel for your motorcycle.”

sturgis-15-1The Association is calling on motorcyclists to contact their representative and ask him/her to cosponsor the RFS Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 704) sponsored by U.S Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Peter Welch (D-VT). The bill would amend the RFS and prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from allowing any station to sell gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol (E10) and require those selling E15 to stop.

In response to AMA, the Renewable Fuels Association’s (RFA) Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White said, “Once again, the AMA is engaging in scare tactics and spreading misinformation about E15. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before. AMA’s claims that E15 will suddenly become available at every fuel station in the country and replace E10, so that there will no longer be any legal fuel for motorcycles to use, are patently false. E15 has been on the market for three years and no motorcycle has misfueled using the higher ethanol blend or has been denied a warranty claim. Plus, the AMA ignores the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that the fuel dispenser label clearly identify what vehicles can and cannot use E15. Does the AMA believe that motorcyclists can’t read?”

White said that the availability for motorcycles to use E10, which is approved for use in motorcycle engines, increased last year, and that more E10 than E0 was sold last year than in the previous year. Earlier this month, RFA was at the 75th Anniversary of Sturgis where they spoke with bikers about ethanol.

“The AMA has gone to great lengths to confuse what the RFS means for consumers,” White continued. “The law states that gasoline refiners and importers must purchase and blend renewable fuels with gasoline and diesel, or purchase credits. Most producers choose to blend renewable fuels because ethanol is cheaper than gasoline and has an octane rating of 113, but the availability of credits assures no marketer will ever have to offer higher level ethanol blends if they don’t want to.” Continue reading

ACE Chairman Optimistic About Ethanol Future

ace15-alversonThe chairman of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) is encouraged about the future for the ethanol industry, despite the continued challenges.

Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol says a lot has happened in the 10 years since the first Renewable Fuel Standard became law. “There were three legs of support for the RFS. It was cheap corn, high priced and scarce fuel, and the better environmental footprint of renewable fuels – we’ve had ups and downs since then,” said Alverson. Ultimately he thinks ethanol will keep moving forward because “we’ve got a really great product and a really great priced product.”

Listen to my interview with Ron here: Interview with ACE chairman Ron Alverson, Dakota Ethanol

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

#ACE15 Annual Celebrates Ethanol Ingenuity

ace15-1The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) is meeting this week in Omaha, Nebraska to celebrate the people, ingenuity and advancements of the ethanol industry.

ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings talked about the success of the industry, despite the roadblocks that have come up over the past decade since passage of the first Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “In the face of adversity you don’t give up,” said Jennings. “You quietly and calmly roll up your sleeves and you go about fixing the problems.”

Jennings compared the trajectory of success, with its ups and downs, to the way implementation of the RFS has evolved. “Under EPA’s recent supervision, the RFS has been messy, it’s been slow going and it’s been hard work,” said Jennings, asking what the industry should do if EPA keeps “riding the brakes” on the RFS. “Maintain pressure on them to keep it on track? Absolutely!”

Jennings also left open the option of legal action if EPA makes no change in the proposed RFS. “What are we to do if EPA drives the RFS in the ditch?,” asked Jennings. “Do we take them to court? Maybe. We’ll have to see.”

The final rule from EPA is expected by November and Jennings says in meantime, ACE is planning a new promotional and social media campaign to keep up the pressure. “ACE plans to launch a new round of Power by People ads, in the Beltway and around the country, to highlighting the benefits of the RFS to everyday people,” said Jennings.

Listen to Brian’s industry address here: ACE Executive VP Brian Jennings, 2015 annual meeting

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

Winning Potential for Bioheat in Northeast

Biodiesel and Bioheat ForumMinnesota State Representative Clark Johnson was one of many people participating in this week’s Biodiesel & Bioheat Forum held in Mankato, MN. He serves on the Agriculture Committee and is very interested in biodiesel. He likes the idea of using biodiesel for Bioheat because “there are lots of winners,” like farmers, producers and the environment. And he likes winning.

He sees a huge potential in the northeast U.S. for biodiesel to heat homes. Here at the Forum he was looking forward to hearing from some of the attendees from New York and other states that are involved in blending and distribution of Bioheat.

You can listen to my interview with Rep. Johnson here: Clark Johnson, MN State Representative

Biodiesel/Bioheat Forum Photo Album

Vivent Solar & Google Team on Project Sunroof

Vivent Solar is teaming up with Google on “Project Sunroof,” a new online tool created by Google that provides homeowners with custom solar information for their home. It works through high-resolution aerial mapping (Google Earth technology) to help calculate a roof’s solar energy potential.

Project Sunroof computes how much sunlight hits your roof in a year in part using Google Map technology.

Project Sunroof computes how much sunlight hits your roof in a year in part using Google Map technology.

“Vivint Solar teaming up with Google is giving homeowners across the country immediate insight, information and access to rooftop solar power—that’s good for everyone,” said Greg Butterfield, CEO of Vivint Solar.

The new online tool is being tested in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as Fresno, both in California, and greater Boston. The program will tell the homeowner how much sunlight hits their rooftop throughout the year while factoring in roof orientation, shade from trees and nearby buildings, and local weather patterns. A homeowner can also enter their typical electric bill cost for more customized results. The tool will combine the information to estimate the amount a homeowner could potentially save with solar panels, and it can help connect them with local solar providers, like Vivint Solar.

“Vivint Solar has created an incredible product that’s revolutionizing the energy market,” said Dwain Kinghorn, chief strategy and innovations officer at Vivint Solar. “It’s simple. It’s affordable. And together with Google, we’re able to let customers all over the country know that solar power is a lot simpler and more affordable than they might have thought.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Renewable Energy Group (REG) completed its acquisition of substantially all the assets of Imperium Renewables, Inc. REG paid Imperium $15.0 million in cash and issued 1.675 million shares of REG common stock in exchange for substantially all of Imperium’s assets, including the 100-million gallon nameplate biodiesel refinery and terminal at the Port of Grays Harbor, WA. For two years post-closing, Imperium may receive up to $0.05/gallon for biodiesel produced and sold at Grays Harbor.
  • The 4th Hydro Plant Maintenance & Reliability Conference is taking place November 3, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. This marcus evans conference will showcase the latest innovations with regards to: asset categorization; methods for rehabilitation & replacement of assets; overcoming challenges associated with skilled labor retention & recruitment; and utilizing asset specific systems.
  • Through its easy-to-use online platform, Solar CrowdSource gives users access to more affordable alternative energy with three unique solar energy programs. Specializing in providing solar crowdsourcing opportunities for local governments, utilities, communities and individuals alike, the first comprehensive solar platform of its kind in the U.S. brings together Community Solar, Solarize and Crowdfunding programs in one place for Georgians to go in on the cost of solar together. The results are lower electric bills, greener communities and smart investments.
  • Energy Storage North America (ESNA), the largest and most influential gathering of policy, technology and market leaders in energy storage, today announced finalists for the 2015 ESNA Innovation Awards, recognizing excellence in energy storage project development. The nine finalists represent outstanding project achievements across three categories: Centralized Storage (utility-scale), Distributed Storage (commercial, industrial or residential) and Mobility (transportation, electric vehicles and enabling infrastructure). Visit the ESNA awards website to learn more about the projects and how to cast your vote. Registration for ESNA 2015 is now open.

EIA: Outage Increased Midwest Gas Prices

eia-outageNew data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirms that the unplanned outage earlier this month of a 240,000-barrels-per-day unit at a refinery in Whiting, Indiana, caused gas prices to spike throughout the Midwest.

The outage occurred on August 8 and EIA notes that regular gasoline prices in the Midwest increased by 32 cents a gallon within the following week, from $2.47 the week of the outage to $2.79 a gallon on August 17. EIA says it was “the largest weekly increase for Midwest gasoline prices since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”

“The EIA data show that the refinery outage made a serious dent in the wallets of consumers,” said Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, which released a statement in response to the unplanned shutdown. “The Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama Administration have all the tools they need at their disposal to assist in blunting the consumer impacts of the refinery outage. We, once again, call on EPA to immediately waive RVP requirements for E15 and also allow E12 blending in the Midwest region.”

According to EIA, it can take markets days or weeks to adjust to the sudden loss of production during unplanned outages, often resulting in sudden price increases. The severity and duration of the higher prices depend on how quickly the refinery problem can be resolved, how soon alternative sources of supply can arrive, and the marginal cost to bring alternative supply to the region.

Broward Schools Finds Success with Propane

Broward County Public Schools (BCPS), located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, has seen success since changing its bus fleet to run on propane autogas. Analysis has found that the Student Transportation and Fleet Services Department reduced its annual operating costs more than $600,000. BCPS began using 98 of the propane autogas fueled school buses, made by Blue Bird, in the 2014/15 school year.

“Providing safe and efficient transportation for our students is always our priority,” said Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie. “The fuel and maintenance savings from our buses using propane autogas has allowed us to reduce our expenses for transporting students to and from school.”

gI_85828_Broward County Schools Propane BusThe analysis found that the district paid an average of $1.32 per gallon for propane and $2.75 for diesel over the last year. In addition to fuel savings, annual maintenance costs for the alternatively fueled buses amounted to 80 percent less than for their diesel buses.

The sixth largest school system in the nation, BCPS operates 1,269 school buses, including the 98 fueled by propane autogas. Each bus travels an average of 16,500 miles per year, transporting approximately 75,000 students. BCPS expects to save more than $74,000 in operating costs over the 12-year lifecycle of each propane autogas bus, which equates to about 38 cents per mile savings.

“After researching the direction of school bus transportation, we decided propane was the best fit and the best use of taxpayer dollars,” said Patricia Snell, director of student transportation and fleet services for BCPS. “We’ve been thrilled with the savings, as well as the performance of the buses.”

BCPS budgeted for a six-month return on investment of the initial propane engine upcharge, but according to the analysis, recouped that cost in three months. The Blue Bird Propane Vision buses had an incremental cost of less than 3 percent more than their diesel counterparts. The school district has ordered 37 additional propane autogas buses for the 2015/16 school year.

Perry Urges Return to “Constitutional Country”

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s main message on the soapbox yesterday at the Iowa State Fair was to get America back to a constitutional country. Citing the 10th amendment, he stressed that power and decision making needs to go back to the state and to the people, as intended by our founding fathers. Power needs to be taken away from a corrupt Washington, D.C.

Rick Perry“I’m mad as hell and I’m going to do something to change it,” said Perry if he is elected.

He also believes that educational curriculum, health insurance and transportation infrastructure should be brought back to the state and not dictated by the government. He wants to secure the border and strengthen the military. “People have belly full of decisions made 1,500 miles away instead of right here in this state,” he said. “I think it was Dwight D. Eisenhower who said It’s pretty easy to farm when your plow is a pencil and you’re 1,500 miles away from the farm. And that’s what we’re seeing today as we see this continual consolidation of power in Washington, D.C.,” added Perry.

Throughout his speech he said continually said he would bring the constitution back as a guide for the country – a place we got away from and need to go back to in order to bring back strength, prosperity and the American dream to the people. The former state agriculture commissioner for Texas did not take questions nor did he address energy or ag in any detail while on stage.

Listen to why former Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to be president: Rick Perry at the Iowa State Fair

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.