GREEN Team Newsletter - Issue #215
In January of this year, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) held its 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit highlighting the successes and upcoming opportunities in today’s renewable fuels industry.
The 10th Annual Summit featured an exciting lineup of high-level biofuels industry experts, policymakers and political leaders, including USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, National Biodiesel Board (NBB) CEO Joe Jobe and several Presidential candidates. It not only attracted about 50 sponsors and vendors and nearly 1,000 attendees, but also a wealth of insightful discussions on the challenges and opportunities for today’s renewable fuels industry.
To view the full 2016 Summit recap, please click here.
April 12, 2016
An analysis of a recent Iowa Department of Revenue report shows the average biodiesel blend purchased in Iowa reached 11.0 percent in 2015, an increase from the 9.4 percent average blend in 2014 and a new all-time record. While still a small percentage of overall fuel sales, Iowans also purchased a record amount of E85 and mid-level ethanol blends in 2015. Iowa motorists purchased a record 13.1 million gallons (mg) of E85 in 2015, an 8.3 percent increase over 2014, while also purchasing 8.7 mg of mid-level ethanol blends (ranging from E15 to E69), a 121.1 percent increase over 2014.
“Despite the lack of Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets and the federal biodiesel blenders’ tax credit last year, biodiesel use took a step forward in 2015 increasing the average biodiesel blend purchased in the state to B11,” stated Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. “This shows the importance and effectiveness of forward-thinking state-level policies that encourage the use of locally-produced, cleaner-burning biodiesel.”
While sales of E10, or fuel containing 10 percent ethanol, held steady, sales of ethanol blends above E10 continued to grow. “While still making up a small portion of overall gasoline sales, we saw aggressive growth in E15 and mid-level ethanol blend sales in 2015,” Shaw added. “And despite historically low gasoline prices for a portion of the year, Iowans purchased a record amount of E85. There’s certainly more room to grow, but meaningful growth in higher ethanol blend sales is a win for the state’s economy and environment, as well as Iowans’ pocketbooks.”
On Friday, April 1, the Iowa Department of Revenue released its 2015 Retailers Fuel Gallons Annual Report. The Iowa Department of Revenue reported that it received filings representing 93.2 percent of fuel locations in Iowa. To view the full report, please click here.
April 12, 2016
With the help of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) recently released the results of a study showing that while the renewable fuels industry continues to be a strong driver of Iowa’s economy, its impacts took a small step backwards last year, due to reductions in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
“Iowa is the leading producer of ethanol in the United States,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. “We have been disappointed by the EPA’s unwillingness to restore a robust Renewable Fuel Standard. This study shows how important renewable fuels are for the future of our Iowa economy.”
“Renewable fuels continue to be a bedrock of our Iowa economy, as this study shows,” Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds added. “However, the drop in farmland values, farm income and commodity prices is directly being impacted by a reduction in the Renewable Fuel Standard. Gov. Branstad and I have called on the EPA to take action repeatedly to provide consumers choices at the pump, create jobs and increase income for Iowa families and reduce our dependency on foreign oil.”
“While Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel industries continue to power the state’s economy, it’s disappointing that those impacts took a small step backwards last year,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “What may be as equally frustrating is the missed opportunity to really grow Iowa’s economy. When the EPA reduced the statutory RFS levels, it reduced our ability to grow ethanol and biodiesel production, to grow forward-looking investments into new technologies, to grow farm income and to grow Iowa jobs.”
The study, authored by John Urbanchuk of ABF Economics and commissioned by the IRFA, found that in 2015 the renewable fuels industry in Iowa:
- Supported nearly 43,000 jobs throughout the entire Iowa economy;
- Generated almost $2.3 billion in household income for Iowans; and,
- Accounted for about $4.6 billion, or 3.5 percent, of Iowa GDP.
For a one-page fact sheet on the study, please click here.
To view the entire study, please click here.
April 12, 2016
Interest amongst Iowa retailers in offering renewable fuels is at an all-time high, following the recent Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board meeting which set records by awarding 68 projects with $3.2 million in state grants to upgrade infrastructure to offer higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel.
“Thanks to sound, forward-thinking state policy, many Iowans will soon have greater access to cleaner-burning, homegrown fuels, like E15, E85 and biodiesel,” stated Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Managing Director Lucy Norton. “The state’s biofuels infrastructure program has been very popular and wildly successful in expanding consumer access to higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel, as shown by the most recent round of grants.”
At its fiscal year 2016 third quarter meeting on March 10, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP) awarded a record-setting 68 projects with a record-high $3,199,831 in funding to upgrade infrastructure to offer higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel. Program funding is set to expire at the end of the state’s fiscal year on June 30, 2016.
“With more interest in this program from Iowa retailers than ever before, it’s imperative that this program receive continued funding to capitalize on the momentum for expanding higher blend levels of renewable fuels and provide motorists with more lower-cost, locally-produced choices at the pump,” added Norton.
April 12, 2016
In a recent hearing on USDA Rural Development Programs and their Economic Impact Across America before the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw testified that properly supporting renewable fuels programs are vital to the well-being of rural America.
“I think it can be fairly stated that no other effort to improve rural economies made the impact that renewable fuels did,” Shaw testified. “Then, in late 2013, the Obama Administration proposed Renewable Fuel Standard levels far below statutory levels. The economic fallout was predictable and painful. The last two years have seen a dramatic downturn in the health of rural America. Corn prices plummeted, land values fell, farm income plunged, and agribusinesses laid off workers by the thousands.”
Shaw then noted that several Energy Title programs under the Farm Bill, including the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, the Renewable Energy for America Program and others, have provided a massive return on investment. “However, the effectiveness of these programs is reduced by a lack of consistent and timely funding.”
Shaw also asked the Senate leaders to support other programs outside the Farm Bill that can boost rural economies. “The Renewable Fuel Standard, the USDA’s Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership, and equalizing vapor pressure treatment for E10 and E15 are all additional programs you can support that are vital to the well-being of rural America.”
To view the full written testimony submitted for the record, please click here.
April 12, 2016
Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, along with 17 other senators, recently urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set high blending targets under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2017, in keeping with congressional intent and to follow through on agency commitments to get the RFS back on track. The senators noted that the EPA’s last target was lower than it should have been because the agency relied on concerns about distribution infrastructure, which Congress explicitly rejected as a reason to justify lower blending targets.
“A strong RFS makes our country more energy secure, increases competition and consumer choice in our transportation sector, and ultimately strengthens our economy,” the senators wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “We need a strong RFS, and we need more biofuels. We expect that you will get the program ‘back on track,’ and we look forward to seeing a proposed rule released on time that removes the distribution waiver and re-establishes the United States as a leader in the biofuel sector.”
The senators’ letter noted that the EPA’s last rule setting blending targets did not get the program back on track and failed to provide the necessary incentive to drive growth in the development of renewable fuels, particularly cellulosic ethanol.
“Since the proposal was first leaked in the fall of 2013, not a single new cellulosic project has broken ground in the United States and many planned or previously announced projects have been halted. In the meantime, new investments in cellulosic projects continue to emerge in China, Europe, and Brazil. The final rule for 2014, 2015, and 2016 did not change this trend,” the senators wrote.
Joining Grassley and Ernst on the letter are Sens. Amy Klobuchar, John Thune, Richard J. Durbin, Mark Kirk, Al Franken, Heidi Heitkamp, Deb Fischer, Martin Heinrich, M. Michael Rounds, Claire McCaskill, Roy Blunt, Debbie Stabenow, John Hoeven, Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Gary Peters and Joe Donnelly.
To read the entire letter, please click here.
April 12, 2016
In recognition of his years of unwavering support for the U.S. ethanol industry, two national renewable fuels industry trade groups awarded Iowa Governor Terry Branstad awards. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) chose Gov. Branstad as the recipient of the RFA 2016 Industry Award, and Growth Energy presented the Iowa Governor with its 2016 America’s Fuel Award. RFA’s Industry Award is bestowed annually to individuals that demonstrate great dedication and innovation within the industry, while Growth Energy’s America’s Fuel Award is presented to an individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to act as a champion for the renewable fuels industry.
“Governor Branstad was a founding member of the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition, and throughout his career he has worked tirelessly on behalf of our nation’s ethanol producers and farmers,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “I can think of no better recipient for this year’s RFA Industry Award. The people of Iowa are lucky to have a man of such vision and character leading their state.”
“Governor Branstad’s track record of advocating for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a policy that helps increase American jobs, consumer choice, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and produces homegrown, cleaner burning renewable fuels made him a clear and deserving winner of the America’s Fuel Award,” said Co-Chair and Acting CEO of Growth Energy, Tom Buis.
Gov. Branstad is the longest-serving governor in American history, and is currently serving his sixth non-consecutive term after first being elected to office in 1983.
April 12, 2016
Growth Energy, alongside several major gasoline retailers, recently reported that over the past 12 months, using the U.S. average gas mileage of 20 MPG, consumers have surpassed 150 million miles using E15 without any negative effects.
NASCAR has trusted E15 for over five years and eight million miles of racing because it burns cleaner, cooler and increases octane, which improves engine performance. We’re now seeing consumers choosing it for the same reasons. Retailers including Sheetz, Kum & Go, MAPCO, Minnoco, Murphy USA and Protec have responded to consumer demand for lower cost and higher performing fuel by adding E15 at their pumps and, their choice is paying off.
“I have been using E15 for the last three years at Minnoco and have noticed no mileage loss, better engine performance and great savings at the pump,” said Mark Foudray, a loyal E15 consumer from Shakopee, Minnesota.
Steve Anderson, an AAA approved and ASE certified service consultant and owner/operator of Marshall Cretin Minnoco from St. Paul, Minnesota, also lauded E15’s engine boosting qualities, saying, “We have a loyal following for the E15 product. Approaching 1,000,000 gallons pumped we have nothing but positive results.” He added, “E15 has higher octane and burns cleaner —the interior of the engines are cleaner and the tailpipe makes more air, and less pollution. E15 has been widely tested and is safe for all vehicles model year 2001 and newer. We see over 50 percent of our customers purchasing E15 on a daily basis. The statistics don’t lie. It is a great product and we are pleased to offer it as a choice to our fueling customers.”
Higher ethanol blends are increasingly popular choices for consumers who demand a 21st century fuel for 21st century cars, and E15 checks that box. In addition, E15 and higher ethanol blends are better for our environment and the air we breathe, as they emit less emissions than other harmful alternatives and cost consumers less at the pump.
“This milestone is a clear indication that American consumers are embracing biofuels like ethanol, and E15 particularly, because they recognize its many benefits—from increased engine performance and reduced oil imports, to less toxic emissions,” said Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy. “Americans want more options at the pump and we hope that this will motivate more retailers to offer E15 at their locations, because consumers are ready for the fuel that’s made for today’s cars.”
April 12, 2016
USDA, ethanol and agriculture groups, and state programs are injecting millions of dollars into retail infrastructure for higher-level ethanol blends, yet auto manufacturers are looking to phase out Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) that utilize these higher blends. Auto groups say it’s because demand for FFVs is waning, but many know it’s mainly due to the fact that the EPA is phasing out fuel economy credits.
In response, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has launched the #FlexMyChoice campaign directed at automakers, auto dealerships and the EPA to voice consumer support for FFVs.
“The auto companies claim there has not been meaningful consumer demand for these vehicles and the incremental cost, albeit trivial, cannot be justified in the absence of a more balanced CAFE regime,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “The ethanol industry needs to demonstrate the continued enthusiasm for FFVs. We want to raise our voices so that E85 and other mid-level ethanol fuels remain viable options for consumers.”
As part of the campaign, RFA intends to distribute 75,000 postcard pamphlets to targeted parties across the country in the hopes of changing the conversation on the future of FFV production. The postcard pamphlets will contain five panels: the first panel is a brief introduction to the issues; panels 2 through 4 are individual postcards to General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (the “Detroit Three”); and the fifth panel contains a pledge that consumers can drop off at their local auto dealership. Additionally, the campaign launched two petitions on www.Change.org directed at the automakers and the EPA respectively.
“It goes without saying that when consumers’ choices within a given market are limited, everyone loses,” said RFA Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White. “The ‘Flex My Choice’ campaign intends to ensure that consumers have choices when it comes to buying and fueling their vehicles. Thanks to USDA, the ethanol industry, and agriculture, 2016 will mark the largest expansion of E85 stations in history; it is not the time to stop the momentum. This campaign will send a clear signal to the automakers, their auto dealerships, and the EPA that there is a real demand on the part of consumers for more vehicle choices, more choices at the pump and increased access to higher ethanol blends.”
April 12, 2016
North America’s top fleets have spoken, and their number one choice for greening their fleet operations is biodiesel. According to a new 2016 Fleet Purchasing Outlook study conducted by the The Association for the Work Truck Industry (NTEA), biodiesel is now the most commonly used alternative fuel option on the market. Survey data shows 18 percent of fleets use biodiesel now – up from 15 percent in 2015. And in terms of future alternative fuel interest, biodiesel also takes top honors, with more fleets planning to acquire or continue using biodiesel than any other alternative fuel option.
Each December, NTEA conducts a comprehensive Fleet Purchasing Outlook Survey to better understand the commercial vehicle landscape, including interest levels for advanced truck technologies and alternative fuels. The new survey results for 2016 were published in March and reflect positive trends for the use of biodiesel blends in the diesel vehicle technology of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Doyle Sumrall, Managing Director of NTEA, commented, “The evolution of alternative fuel technologies is still triggering change for vocational truck specifications. However, general interest has dropped in recent years due to persistently low oil costs and will likely remain muted until prices rebound. Despite current challenges facing the alternative fuels movement, fleet interest in biodiesel has remained strong, actually increasing in 2016 as compared to the previous year.”
J.D. Schulte, Fleet Manager for the City of Moline, stated, “Here in Moline, air quality is paramount to our quality of life. We made the switch to clean, domestically produced plant-based biodiesel ten years ago, not only because it was a good choice for our fleet, but also because it was a good choice for our community. My advice to other fleet managers is, if you are conscious of and serious about air quality and looking for an easy and cost-effective solution to make a positive difference in your community, biodiesel is a natural choice.”
April 12, 2016
A recent study finds the net energy balance of corn-based ethanol at U.S. dry mill biorefineries averages 2.6 – 2.8, an improvement over previous estimates, reflecting efficiency gains. The study was conducted by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).
The numbers improve upon USDA’s findings of a 2.1 – 2.3 net energy balance for ethanol, as RFA’s analysis used more current dry mill energy use data than the previous USDA study.
“As this new analysis shows, the U.S. ethanol industry has made tremendous efficiency gains in recent years,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “EPA should take note and update its lifecycle greenhouse gas modeling of corn-based ethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard to reflect these improvements. Today’s ethanol plants are achieving the levels of efficiency that EPA assumed wouldn’t occur until 2022.”
Additionally, according to RFA’s analysis, “[t]he energy balance of the top-performing quartile of biorefineries is in the range of 3.2–3.4, which approaches the USDA estimate of 4.0 for an ideally situated dry mill producing wet distillers grains.”
To read RFA’s analysis, please click here.