FEATURE: BIOMASS TO LIQUIDS US ethanol industry is “Going Global” Editor Todd Tranausky, from North American Transportation spoke about rail congestion and how it influences the ethanol market. Bioenergy International No 78, 2-2015 15 INTERESTING DISCUSSIONS OVER ISSUES and hurdles concerning the US ethanol industry characterised the atmosphere in the jam-packed conference hall. Debaters focused especially on the upcoming prospects for this year and on possible higher blends, including whether it’s possible to top a record for ethanol exports. According to attending ethanol producers, the discussions in earlier years concentrated mostly on how to extend the US ethanol industry’s domestic market share, largely through increased help from the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This year however, it was more or less as if the US ethanol actors are tired of waiting on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reveal its much foreseen, very long-overdue RFS target authorised volumes. Only about 6 percent of the record 14.3 billion gallons of production were exported in 2014. However, the RFA President Bob Dinneen said in his opening speech that he believes that the 2011 record of 1.2 billion gallons can be beaten this year. What is the reason for Dinneens optimism? Production has been substantial recently and corn is fairly cheap now. Even US ethanol prices in the spot market have been low against challenging gasoline and margins have been weak. During his traditional State of the Industry speech at the conference, RFA President Bob Dinneen also unveiled a 10-point plan for the future of the ethanol industry. – The state of our ethanol industry is strong, Dinneen declared. He highlighted last year’s success despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) indecision and proposed cuts to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), pointing to the expansion of the ethanol market globally, and emphasising the emergence of cellulosic ethanol. Dinneen underlined also that “there is much work left to do” and “RFA is committed to a forceful 10-point agenda that will move the industry forward and assure continued growth and evolution.” Here are the ten “ethanol commandments” of President Bob Dinneen: 1. Get the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on a growth trajectory that will crack the blend wall and motivate investment in new cellulose technologies 2. Grow market opportunities for higher-level ethanol blends including E15 and E85 3. Secure parity for E10 and E15 with respect to EPA’s RVP regulations 4. Expand export markets 5. Create a level playing field for cellulosic biofuels by securing a long-term tax incentive 6. Develop a roadmap for Renewable Super Premium (RSP) 7. Support low carbon fuels programs “done right” and developed with the best available science 8. Improve railroad services while prioritising highly volatile crude oil for railcar safety modifications 9. Continue to promote safety practices and procedures both at the plant and in the transport of ethanol. 10. Provide detailed technical guidance that establishes a solid foundation for the industry’s fuel marketplace and policy priorities. Believe in UFOs Former US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk was the keynote speaker at the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) National Ethanol Conference this week where the theme was “Going Global”, highlighting the importance of exports. – I want to thank you for your very strong and vocal support for a very smart trade policy for our country over the years. You understand the importance of going global, said Kirk. Kirk served under President Obama in his first term. He lamented that too many Americans have “gone sour” on international trade, citing a poll that found twice as many Americans said they believe in the existence of UFOs than believed international trade was good for America. – We have got to go out and tell the story of the real benefits of trade, he said. Promising figures The latest numbers from the federal government, presented at RFA conference in Dallas, show that biodiesel was the leader in growth among biofuels in the United States. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Renewable Energy Data Book showed good gains for many of the renewable energy industries, while energy consumption from petroleum actually slumped, despite an overall increase in the amount of energy consumed. Biodiesel was the fastest growing biofuel type, with production increasing by 64 percent in the United States and 17 percent globally, from a relatively small base. Ethanol shipper’s problems Editor Todd Tranausky, from North American Transportation talked about rail congestion and the ethanol market. – Production figures may look fine but ethanol shippers are facing challenges, caused by service meltdown over last winter. This year has been better, but all is not over, said Tranausky. » Ron Kirk emphasised the importance of the ethanol industry supporting the approval of the Trade Promotion Authority which will facilitate the conclusion of agreements such as the Transpacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. RFA chairman and Al-Corn Clean Fuel CEO Randy Doyal said that the reason why ethanol co-ops work is that people join together and work hard to reach common goals and “that’s what RFA is all about”. Enthusiastic US ethanol industry representatives gathered at the Renewable Fuels Association’s 20th annual National Ethanol Conference on 18th February in Dallas. This kind of optimism has merit, the US ethanol industry exported 836 million gallons in 2014 to 51 countries. Several companies are now looking to push that quantity past a billion gallons in 2015. US ethanol remains one of the lowest cost liquid transportation fuels on the planet.
Bioenergy no 2 - March 2015
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