Corn Commentary

EPA Chief Hopes RFS Rule Coming “Soon”

epa-mccarthyA final rule on the volume obligations for this year under the Renewable Fuel Standard is taking longer than expected, but Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy says they want to get it right.

“I’m hoping it will come out soon,” she said during a press conference on agricultural issues this week. Explaining about the delay in releasing the final rule, which was expected by the end of June, McCarthy said it has become clear that there is concern “not only about what the volumes of the fuels are but the way in which we are adjusting those volumes.”

McCarthy stressed that the administration “continues to have a strong commitment to biofuels” and they want to make sure the final rule “clearly reflects that interest.”

“My goal is always to make sure we get it right,” she concluded.

Listen to McCarthy explain here: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on RFS rule release

Don’t Worry, Consumers! Big Oil Will Make Those Pesky Choices for You

Standing at the pump, have you even wondered who decides which options you will have? Maybe the gas station owner? The government? Who knows?

If you thought that it impacted what you pay, would you care? What if it was cheaper and kept money in the United States and out of oil regimes in the Middles East? Maybe then?

According to a report card released today by the Renewable Fuels Association, Big Oil is taking care of the big decisions in most cases. The biggest names in the oil industry have been stacking the deck in favor of their product for years by writing a series of restrictions into every franchise agreement. If consumers want to go to a name they know, chances are they have to take whatever Big Oil is willing to give.

The reasoning behind the regs is simple. By making it cost prohibitive or even forbidden to carry renewable fuel blends currently available, like E15 or E85, they make sure that their pockets will be as full as possible. As for consumer wallets? Oh well.

Take a second to find out more by clicking here.

Big Oil does an incredible job of watching out for itself. What they fail to do is watch out for consumers, the environment, the U.S. economy and U.S. energy security.

Next time you fill up, take a second to wonder why you are paying more, and losing more, because of the undue influence of a modern monopoly. Take a look at the options. They do exist.

Be Proud to Support American Ethanol

As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, many of us will be out on the roads driving to see family, friends and fireworks. But, thanks to upheaval in a little country halfway across the world, gas prices are up again so we are going to be paying more at the pump, a stark reminder that we are not so independent when it comes to our energy sources.

ethanol-prideNational Corn Growers Association president Martin Barbre says that this Independence Day, more than ever before, it’s important for us to remember the great strides our country has made in moving toward energy independence and to keep moving forward, not backward.

“The Environmental Protection Agency wants a 10 percent reduction in corn ethanol this year, and earlier this year nearly 200,000 people around the country demanded the EPA not cut the Renewable Fuel Standard,” says Barbre. “Because it’s produced here in the United States, every gallon of ethanol blended into fuel means a gallon of gas from foreign oil that we don’t need. It provides a cushion in times such as these with Mideast violence and gives drivers a choice that helps clear the air and boost the economy.”

He suggests that all Americans (especially farmers!) do their part to support domestically produced ethanol. Buy a flex fuel vehicle. If you already have an FFV, fill up with E85 whenever possible and if it’s not available at your gas station, tell the manager you want it.

Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen also reminds us that ethanol saves Americans money at the pump, stretches the fuel supply and is the perfect remedy for skyrocketing gas prices.

In this interview Dinneen talks about that, as well as the new milestone reached this week in cellulosic ethanol production and why the government needs to be expanding the use of biofuels rather than contemplating scaling back our nation’s renewable energy policy and striking a blow for American energy independence. Share it with your friends on social media.

Ethanol Report on Energy Independence

Filling up with domestic, renewable ethanol is a great way to celebrate our great nation’s 238th birthday, and we at NCGA wish everyone a memorable and safe holiday weekend.

In Battle Against Misinformation, Barbre Leads by Example

NCGA President Martin Barbre put pen to paper this week to correct an anti-ethanol article run by the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Taking decisive action to address the misinformation published, Barbre not only shed light on an important subject for readers but also led by example.

To read “Opinion Piece on Ethanol Gets Three Things Wrong,” click here.

So often, farmers see, hear or read fallacies about their industry perpetuated in the media. It is easy to fall victim to inertia. It is easy to get worked up among one’s peers. It takes greater effort and even a bit of hutzpah to speak out publicly, answering back critics in a respectful, well-considered manner. Yet, it is only in using your voices, your energy and your knowledge that you can become an advocate and shape the world around you.

Newspapers accept letters to the editor and opinion pieces every day. Likewise, calling the local television or radio newsroom producer can yield results too. So, take the initiative. Write a letter, offer to speak as an expert on a news program and provide a farmer’s point of view. The first step away from that resting position is the hardest; realize it gets easier from there.

Reuters Reports Philly RFS Connection

philly-energyA story out today from Reuters claims that a major airline and a private equity firm with Philadelphia oil refinery connections are the main forces behind the Obama administration proposal to lower volume requirements for biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this year.

According to the article, it was The Carlyle Group and Delta Air Lines, owners of two refineries in the Philadelphia area, that put the pressure on the administration to cut back on biofuels requirements by convincing policymakers that “the rising mandates would cripple their businesses and threaten thousands of jobs.”

Just one of many interesting points made in the article is that in July and August of last year, “17 refiners and their allies visited the White House’s rulemaking arm, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to discuss the RFS. Only six biofuel supporters visited the OMB over the same time.” Reuters even produced a graphic to illustrate the comparison between visits by oil and ethanol lobbying interests last year.


Read the story here.

Follow the Anti-RFS Money

saudi-oilIs anyone really surprised to learn that Saudi oil money is helping to fund the effort by the American Petroleum Institute (API) to get rid of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)?

As if we needed proof, Americans United for Change and VoteVets.org revealed IRS documents this week showing that is the case. According to tax documents, Saudi Arabia has been a funder of API dating back to 2008 and an employee of Saudi Aramco – a company with an estimated worth of $7 trillion by Financial Times, actually held a seat on API’s board.

“API’s agenda is very simple and very greedy: they want EPA to cut the amount of renewable fuel in gasoline while raising the amount of crude oil,” said Americans United for Change president Brad Woodhouse. “This is about market share, plain and simple.” Saudi Oil Money Backing Ethanol Smear Campaign

Jon Soltz, Iraq War veteran and Chairman of VoteVets.org added, “There’s nothing “American” about the way the “American” Petroleum Institute is doing business. They’re fighting to block competition from U.S. businesses, and they’re doing it with Saudi Aramco’s trillions in oil dollars.”

To further drive home the point, Americans United for Change is launching a Sunday show TV blitz aimed at both the public, legislators and key decisions makers in the Beltway in an attempt to set the record straight. “The Kingdom” will air May 4, 2014 on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This Week and Fox News Sunday in the Washington, D.C. market.

Whether this will make anyone take notice and question the motives of the oil industry in its quest to dismantle the RFS remains to be seen. Let’s hope so.

Economic Impact of Ethanol is Personal

A new study out from the Fuels America coalition shows that the industry supports more than 850,000 American jobs and drives $184.5 billion of economic output.

fuels-americaIt also is responsible for $46.2 billion in wages and generates $14.5 billion in tax revenue each year.

But numbers are impersonal and fail to show the real personal impact of what ethanol production has meant for rural areas. National Corn Growers Association Vice President of Public Policy Jon Doggett says farmers tell him ethanol is the reason their children have come back or decided to stay on the farm. “When I get tough farmers come up with misty eyes and say ‘that’s why this is so important because my kid came back,’” said Doggett during a press conference announcing the Fuels America report. “It gives them a way to pass that farm on to the next generation.”

Listen to Doggett’s comments here: Jon Doggett, NCGA

Listen to the full press conference here: Fuels America new economic report

Binging on Earth Day Irony

dead dolphinOk, I admit I love irony. So I had to chuckle a little bit as everyone was getting fired up about the arrival of another Earth Day. The irony lies in the fact that this momentous occasion occurs two days after the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

To refresh your memory this was the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, estimated to be up to 31% larger in volume than the previously largest, the Ixtoc I oil spill. Following the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, a sea-floor oil gusher flowed for 87 days, until it was capped on 15 July 2010. The US Government estimated the total discharge at 4.9 million barrels.

That’s 210 million gallons of oil and we don’t even want to talk about the 2 million gallons of toxic chemicals they call dispersants which were either to:

  • Hide BP’s Faux Pas and remove it from public display
  • or allow nature to recover faster

The irony gets tastier if you are my age because I am old enough, ok more than old enough, to have celebrated the first Earth Day and remember how this whole affirmation of Mother Terra Firma began. It started 44 years ago after a US Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, witnessed the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.

Well the Earth Day recognition has lasted but the public consciousness and the leadership of our elected officials lacks a little staying power. Today, the oil industry continues to be one of the largest polluters in the world. And because of their deep pockets and political influence they have been allowed to blithely go about their business with little or no consequences.

The BP spill offers a great case in point. Big oil responded initially and spent money for clean-up efforts and they put on a contrite face while the cameras were on. But take a closer look today at their efforts in court to dodge any more clean-up costs and the fines that were imposed. They say their job is done even as the number of dead dolphin washing up on beaches topped 900 last week. Kemp sea turtle have been nearly ravaged into extinction in Gulf waters.

And to add insult to injury petroleum interests are now spending millions to mislead the public. Big oil is poisoning the system as well as the environment. They are doing everything they can to keep a death grip on the liquid transportation fuel market.

That’s why today—Earth Day — you should take few minutes to educate yourself regarding the sheer audacity of oil. It’s as simple as going to OilRigged.com to shine a spotlight on the oil companies’ dirty tricks and dishonest attacks. Americans deserve to know how oil companies have rigged the system to make us pay more at the pump—sending their profits up while our air and water quality goes down.

Forbes Fuzzy Math

Forbes proved that by carefully presenting numbers in a persuasively plotted manner one can confuse a reader this weekend in its story “It’s Final – Corn Ethanol Is Of No Use”. Referencing the recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group reports released at the end of last month, energy writer James Conca conca-cocted a seemingly sensible argument. Unfortunately, he used slanted stats to obfuscate the truth and, with the skill of a math-magician, create an illusion instead of a solid story.

In his argument, Conca cleverly hides reality through the use of percentages. Comparing the total percent of the corn crop used to feed people and livestock in 2000 (90 percent) to the broken out figures for livestock and food and beverage feed in 2013 (45 percent and 15 percent respectively). He clearly intends to shock by using the smallest possible numbers for 2013 instead of using a more mentally honest direct comparison.

But this is only the beginning of the show. Much of the story happens off the stage.

Behind the curtain, Conca hides the hard numbers that would show his sleight of hand for what it actually is. In 2000, the United States produced only 9.9 billion bushels of corn. In 2013, U.S. farmers grew a record 13.9 billion bushels. Percentages working as they do, a larger percentage of a smaller crop can (and often does) equal a smaller percentage of a larger.

Usage for starch held steady. Sweetener, cereal and food usage rose.

Corn used for livestock feed rose too. In 2000, 5.2 billion bushels of U.S. corn went to livestock feed. In 2013, 4.3 billion bushels went directly to the livestock feed market with the equivalent of an additional 1.1 billion bushels going to feed use as distillers dried grains and corn gluten feed. That is a total of 5.4 billion bushels of corn in 2013.

Overlooking real magic, Conca fails to mention how ethanol co-product DDGs help maximize the potential of each kernel of corn by creating both feed and fuel from it.

While he puts on a complicated, carefully choreographed performance, Conca’s performance falls flat as a piece of unbiased journalism. Instead of shining the spotlight on the real fallacies, he follows the other righteously indignant frauds into a fog of reactionary rhetoric that obscures the bright role biofuels play in building an honestly better future.

Energy Independence No Greased Pig Fantasy

There is an old saying…”make hay while the sun is shining.” Dating back to at least 1546 this traditional farmer logic translates into grab opportunity while you can. This has never been truer regarding the nation’s energy situation. A new report by the Energy Information Administration makes that abundantly clear. EIA says the greased pig fantasy of energy independence in the US is real.

We’ve reduced our dependence on foreign oil from 60 percent to 45 percent in the last few years. This is real, quantifiable progress brought on by smaller, high mileage vehicles, less driving due to a sagging economy, 15 billion gallons of ethanol capacity and domestic oil production on steroids.

Net oil imports to the U.S. could fall to zero by 2037 because of robust production in areas including North Dakota’s Bakken field and Texas’s Eagle Ford formation, according to this Department of Energy projection released this week.

Most days I am just numb about government studies and gasoline prices. I pull up to the pump, try to ignore the price and move on about my day. But there are other days too when I am angry about being held hostage by oil companies, and especially about their cavalier approach to crushing any real competition.

And that is exactly that they are trying to do with ethanol today.  So, here is a novel thought. Let’s take this time of energy abundance to think big and invest in a more sustainable energy future rather than waiting until the wolf is at the door. Because, rest assured petroleum remains finite and the next generation will wonder why we squandered this brief respite from oil piracy.

Oil imports have fallen to about 5 million barrels a day from a peak of almost 13 million barrels in 2006, thanks in part to advances in techniques such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in shale rock. Despite this, we continue to spend $1 billion a day protecting our assets in foreign oil. And there is no getting around that gasoline is bad for our health and the environment.

make-hayNow would be a great time to call your Congressman and Senator and ask them to show some vision regarding biofuels and our energy future. The rapid growth in ethanol production has shown us the promise of a bio-based fuel future. It’s time to make hay!

 

 

 



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