WBIA BLOG

Producers rail against changes to ethanol requirements

Many are frustrated Walker hasn’t weighed in on issue

By Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel
Jan. 15, 2014

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Wisconsin biofuel producers say they’re disappointed Gov. Scott Walker hasn’t joined a group of Midwestern governors urging the federal government to support ethanol use and not cut the fuel additive requirement in gasoline.

Long considered a boon to the Midwest economy, ethanol made from corn is blended in most of the gasoline sold in the U.S. today.

But for the first time since 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed cutting by 3 billion gallons, or almost 18%, the amount of ethanol in the U.S. fuel supply this year.

The reduction could have a huge adverse effect on corn growers and ethanol plants, said Robert Sather, co-founder of Ace Ethanol in Stanley and president of the Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance.

“We have nine ethanol plants in the state. They will all be in jeopardy if the EPA change comes to fruition,” Sather said.

The proposal has raised the ire of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, and governors from Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, who want the EPA to leave the biofuel requirements intact.

If the EPA’s proposed rule takes effect, the negative impact would be felt most in rural America, the governors said in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The governors said more than 400,000 Americans depend on renewable fuels for jobs in their states, directly or indirectly. They cited an Iowa State University study that estimated a reduction in the Renewable Fuels Standard could cause corn prices to drop below the point where farmers would make a profit on the commodity.

Corn is Wisconsin’s biggest crop, and farmers make planting decisions based in part on the demand for ethanol. So Wisconsin ethanol producers say they’re frustrated by Walker’s decision not join the other governors in urging the EPA to reject any reduction in the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Walker says he’s keeping a campaign pledge to not take a position in the debate that has pitted ethanol producers against Wisconsin’s small-engine industry, which opposes increased use of the fuel additive.

Livestock farmers also aren’t pleased with ethanol because it drives up the price of corn and makes their feed more expensive.

“From our standpoint, it’s a careful balance. We’ve got corn producers, but we also have (corn) users, particularly in the dairy industry,” Walker said in an interview.

The EPA was supposed to make its decision on the 2014 ethanol requirements last November but missed the deadline and has kept its public comment period open until Jan. 28.

“If there ever was a time the industry wanted the governor to get involved and weigh in, now is that time,” said Josh Morby, executive director of the Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance.

(Follow Joshua on LinkedInTwitter, and make sure to follow the WBIA.)

 

In a speech to EPA officials in November, Iowa’s Branstad said by lowering the nation’s ethanol blending mandate, President Barack Obama’s administration would be turning its back on Iowa voters.

Iowa is the nation’s largest ethanol producer with 42 refineries.

“This is going to drive us into what could be another farm crisis. It makes no sense,” Branstad said.

Ethanol critics say the recent boom in domestic oil production has made the biofuel additive less important as an alternative to foreign oil.

Also, as vehicles become more fuel efficient, Americans are using less gasoline than they did seven years ago when the government set the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Almost all gasoline sold in the U.S. contains 10% ethanol.

“We are now at the E-10 blend wall,” the agency said, adding that if gasoline use continues to decline with more fuel-efficient vehicles, then growth in ethanol use would have to come from higher blends ranging from 15% to 85%.

That would be unpopular with the automotive industry and small-engine makers, who contend the higher blends could result in problems such as premature engine wear, fuel line issues and lower fuel mileage.

It’s time to scale back the Renewable Fuels Standard to better reflect the current situation, the American Petroleum Institute says.

“The Renewable Fuels Standard was a well-intentioned law that was written in 2007, when the assumptions of what 2014 would look like were vastly different,” said Patrick Kelly, API’s senior fuels policy adviser.

“Now the EPA has taken steps in the right direction to address this,” Kelly said.

 

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Ethanol in Wisconsin: Facts and Fiction

Categories: Uncategorized

 A blog post from WBIA Executive Director, Joshua Morby.

Follow Joshua on LinkedIn, Twitter, and make sure to follow the WBIA.

 

The ethanol industry has had a rough couple of weeks. Between a national story full of inaccuracies, coupled with the EPA’s recommendation to roll back the number of gallons of ethanol blended into domestic gasoline supplies. The question remains however, what all this pontificating from ethanol’s supporters and opponents will really mean for Wisconsin.

 

Here’s what we do know.

Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed cutting the Renewable Volume Obligation for conventional renewable fuel from the statutory level of 14.4 billion gallons to 13.01 billion gallons.

For Wisconsin producers, which rank #7 nationally in terms of production with close to 500 million gallons, this could mean trouble. Our nine plants represent more than a billion dollars of economic activity for our state’s agriculture industry alone, not to mention the money those plants spend on professional services, technology, and the payroll in their home communities.

Ethanol really does help keep gas prices down. The challenge our industry faces is telling that story and making it stick. As recently as last week there was a front page story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the recent drop in gas prices in Southeast Wisconsin but no mention of the role ethanol played.

Just this morning, the price of a gallon of ethanol was more than 80 cents less than the price of a gallon of pure gasoline. With the national retail price of gas of hovering around $3.20, the fact that ethanol is blended at a rate of 10 percent with almost every gallon of gas sold means it plays a significant role in helping control gas prices. As more ethanol is blended, prices will drop.

Consumers should be able to make their own choices at the pump, not have them dictated by big oil companies or politicians in Washington.

While the horse-trading takes place in Washington, fans of cheaper gas, more choices at the pump, energy independence and renewable fuel must get involved. While our Wisconsin delegation in Wisconsin remains pretty well split along partisan lines in their support of ethanol, Governor Walker has kept a fairly low profile compared to many of our neighboring states.

While the political upside may not be there for Governor Walker to come out as a vocal supporter of the ethanol industry and the federal requirements that protect Wisconsin’s rural communities, there is a clear economic upside.

 

Call Governor Walker and tell him you support the Wisconsin ethanol industry and want him to also. He can show his support by calling the president and asking him to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard. He can be reached at 608-266-1212.

You can find the point-counter point on the mentioned AP article here.

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We Love Oil

Categories: Uncategorized

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New startup uses technology developed by the University of Wisconsin

Categories: Bio Fuels

A new biofuel startup will be using technology developed by the University of Wisconsin- Madison.

“A renewable chemical and biofuel production method developed by a team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Ron Raines has been licensed to the company he founded.

Raines, a biochemistry professor, has established Hyrax Energy Inc., which will license the technology from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the patent and licensing arm of UW-Madison.”

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Researches from Wisconsin pioneer new biofuel production process

Categories: Bio Fuels

A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin – Madison have pioneered a new way to develop biofuels.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison chemical engineer and his team have developed a new process that uses water, electricity and biomass to make biofuels.

The team developed a technology that uses a fuel cell to convert the compound acetone from biomass into isopropanol, a chemical that’s used as a gasoline additive as well as pharmaceutical and industrial applications.

“It’s what we call electrofuel,” said George Huber, a UW professor of chemical and biological engineering. The technology, he said, creates a “renewable liquid fuel that fits into the existing infrastructure.”

To read more about the team’s research, click here.

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US Automakers Approve Use of E15 in New Vehicles

The two major US automakers made a great announcement for the US ethanol industry today. Check out what The Hill reported:

Ford and General Motors Inc. have approved use of a higher concentration of ethanol fuel in new vehicles — a significant victory for the biofuels industry.

New GM and Ford vehicles will accept a fuel blend that’s 15 percent ethanol, as opposed to the standard 10 percent blend. For GM, that will begin with 2012 models, while Ford will accommodate the fuel in 2013 models, according to Oil Price Information Service, which first reported the news.

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New App on Air Quality

Categories: Education

Our friends at the American Lung Association have just introduced a new smartphone application about air quality. The app provides color-coded EPA air quality forecasts, location-based air quality alerts and ways for you to get informed, speak up to lawmakers or donate to help support their Fight for Air. Click here to find out more about their new app.

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Wisconsin ethanol plant to be featured on “Into the Outdoors”

Categories: Uncategorized

Didion Milling and Didion Ethanol will be featured on the television show “Into the Outdoors” which airs this weekend on local channels. The TV program aims to educate kids about the outdoors and nature. The episode featuring Didion “Big Things from Small Stuff” follows the full life of a corn kernel from the planting by area corn farmers using modern combines to the harvest phase.   

“Into the Outdoors” may be found on multiple Wisconsin channels. Madison channel WKOW TV-27 on Saturdays at 6:30am, Green Bay channel WFRV TV-5 on Saturdays at 11:00am, Wausau channel WAOW TV-9 on Sundays at 10:00am and Milwaukee channel WITI TV-6 on Sundays at 10:30am.

Check out a clip from Didion’s episode, click here.

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Subsides given for fossil fuels greatly overshadows those for renewable energy

Categories: Uncategorized

In a recent article from Bloomberg, the International Energy Agency reports subsidies given to fossil fuels are six times more than those for renewable energy. As a result, the enormous subsidies awarded to fossil fuels are creating a market distortion where the costs are greatly outweighing the benefits.

G-20 nations spent a $160 billion supporting the production of fossil fuels and its consumption last year alone. To continue spending on an increasingly inefficient fuel source will only further set the US back in becoming an energy independent nation.

Though aid for renewable energy projects rose 10 percent, the US faces significant hurdles building a competitive energy market if fossil fuels continue to receive large government subsidies. Whereas Europe and China are making strides in building competitive renewable energy markets, at the current pace, the IEA predicts the US renewable energy market will need aid until at 2035.

To read more about International Energy Agency’s report, click here.

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Looking for an E85 station?

Categories: ethanol

Did you know there are currently 2837 E85 stations in the United States located in 1945 cities? If you’re not sure where your nearest station is, the US Department of Energy has a website that can locate it for you.

Click here to check it out.

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