EPA Approves E15 Ethanol, pleasing nobody. Or did they?

The US EPA proves once again that it does not have anybody’s interest, not to mention our country’s environmental interest, at heart. In a puzzling decision, they decided to endorse E15 ethanol fuel as an increase above E10 (whew! what a relief) as an approved fuel for use in all cars made after 2007. What?! Even the ethanol supporters shrugged about this one. Who cares? An extra 5% approved for cars less than 3 years old? What kind of market demographic is that?

The petroleum industry was slightly more petulant in their response: The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association said the decision was all about politics and that the EPA was asking consumers to “pump first, ask questions later:”

EPA’s unwise and premature decision to allow the sale of gasoline with higher levels of ethanol may be good politics in Corn Belt states on the eve of the midterm elections, but it is bad news for every American who owns a car, truck, motorcycle, boat, snowmobile, lawnmower, chainsaw or anything else powered by gasoline.

The ethanol industry has won a victory today by convincing the federal agency charged with protecting our nation’s public health and environment to disregard public safety and environmental issues and instead base a major policy decision on inadequate engine test data that has not been made public or reviewed independently. The American people are the losers today because EPA has violated President Obama’s 2009 commitment to them to put science ahead of politics

What a childish and unsurprising response from Big Oil.  Yes, we know you don’t want anybody tapping into your market.  We know you don’t want this “new fangled biofuel” stuff messing with your product stream.

Could you stick your head any farther into the sand and pretend that we’re not handing over billions of dollars every week to the Arabs, prices are going higher every quarter on foreign oil, and America needs to come up with a solution to retard or stop our dependence upon countries that hate us?   Maybe ethanol and biodiesel aren’t the answer, but they are at least a bridge to get us out.  Both are a drop in replacement for petroleum.

Environmental groups don’t seem to love ethanol  either. Friends of the Earth campaign coordinator Kate McMahon says ethanol actually leads to more greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA’s own studies.

The only thing ‘green’ about ethanol is the color of the cash subsidies handed to it by Congress,” added McMahon.  “With this announcement, the Obama administration is bucking its own scientific findings in favor of maintaining President Bush’s failed energy policies, which increased the consumption of bad biofuels like ethanol, instead of promoting truly sustainable alternatives.”

Increased blends of ethanol in gasoline could increase emissions of toxic air pollutants, in particular nitrogen dioxide, when burned in engines not built to withstand more ethanol.  This danger applies to the vast majority of engines currently in service, from cars to boats to lawnmowers.

Note she couldn’t be bothered to actually state any “sustainable alternatives“.  All practical fuels pollute the air when burned.  Hell, wood pollutes when it burns.  It’s just that some fuels pollute less when they are burned.  That’s the idea for biofuels, at least from an environmental standpoint.  But that’s not really the best part about biofuels.  The best part is that they are domestic.  We need domestic products, domestic jobs, and a domestic economy.  Ethanol and bioidesel can help fuel that (pun intended).

To the EPA, Friends of Earth, and the Petroleum Industry: Find something better.   I’ll buy it.  Until then, shut up and try to help our country instead of putting your own self interest first and mucking up the facts about what the problem is and how to solve it.   The short version, for the obtuse:  “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”.

Pennsylvania trying to tax biodiesel.

A Biodiesel Magazine article reports about legislators in Pennsylvania trying to pass an amendment, SB 901, which seeks to impose a new fuel tax on businesses that sell biodiesel fuel by amending the state’s Biofuel Development and In-State Production Incentive Act of 2008.

Ironically, the geniuses in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are intending to use the fees to support the state Department of Agriculture’s enforcement of the on-road B2 mandate that took effect in May. The amended legislation establishes a total of four of these registration fees:

– $5,000 for each biodiesel manufacturing facility within the state
– $5,000 for each location within the state where biodiesel is blended
– $100 for a person, other than a person that operates at a biodiesel production or blending facility, that sells, offers sale or otherwise transfers biodiesel or a biodiesel blend within the state, whether or not the that person operates a location within Pennsylvania where such activities are conducted
– $100 for each location, in excess of one, within Pennsylvania where a registered person sells, offers for sale or otherwise transfers title of biodiesel or a biodiesel blend.

Stupid is as stupid does, to quote Forrest Gump. One has to look no further than Germany to see where Merkel imposed a tax on biodiesel that has all but killed biodiesel in that country.

The biodiesel economy, and indeed the entire biofuels economy, is in a weakened state because of our lack of leadership on the federal level to renew the biofuels tax credits that they let expire. Add stupid legislation like this, and we can almost guarantee that not only will nobody be able to produce biodiesel, nobody will want to sell it either.

Biofuels Center of North Carolina Interview with TBI

Included in this blog post is an interview with Zack Hamm of Triangle Biofuels about the status of biodiesel in the United States and how TBI is operating in the current economy.  The original post can be found on the Biofuels Center of North Carolina’s website at NC Biofuels Center TBI Interview on Biodiesel.

Click here to play the interview in your browser.

The main content of this podcast focuses on the biodiesel tax credit and how it must be renewed in order to compete with the heavily subsidized petroleum industry.

Struggle continues for biodiesel tax credit

With our congress busy fretting over raising taxes, the health care bill, the BP oil spill, and other less significant matters, the biodiesel tax credit has gone by the wayside.

For a supposedly bipartisan issue (renewable fuel that is domestically produced), biodiesel has been stuck in the Senate at least 4 times that I am aware of.  It now sits as Senate bill S.1589 and House Bill H.R. 4070, both of which are a much needed multi-year tax credit for biodiesel.  A couple of calls to my congressmen informed me that HR 4070 is in the Ways and Means Committee (as it has been for a year) and the House is apparently waiting on the Senate for a first move on it, since they’ve sent similar bills which have died in the Senate three times now.

Yikes.  I’ve watched 5 biodiesel plants go out of business this year.   How can our Congress be so obtuse?  We need renewable, domestic energy.  Biodiesel is an immediate drop-in replacement for petroleum diesel.  What is the problem here exactly?

Who cares if it’s “green” or not? (It is.)  Who cares if it “create jobs” or not?  (It does.)  We can stop sending money to the Middle East right now by using biodiesel. Sure, it’s not going to replace all petroleum diesel.  We’ve got to find other solutions too.  But we’re spending over $315 Million dollars per day on foreign oil just from the Arabs.  Even a 10% reduction would be a savings of over $1.1 Billion dollars per year.  Money that would be spent right here in the USA.

I have a hard time understanding what is so complicated about this in Washington.  Perhaps I should send my 9 year old daughter to explain it to them.  Even she gets it.

A view of a Middle Eastern Oil Field

Write a favorable google review and get free fuel!

Here are 5 quick and easy steps to get 5 gallons of free B99 biodiesel from TBI:

1.  Find us on Google Maps (google Triangle Biofuels) or click here:   GOOGLE MAPS

2.  Click on “More”, and then “Write a Review”,  OR  under “Reviews” then click on “Write a Review”.

3.  Login to gmail (if you don’t have a gmail account, get one, they are quick to signup for and free!)

4.  Write us a nice review about your experience with buying and using our fuel, or your visit to our plant.

5.  Contact us and let us know you’ve written a review and once we have verified it, come get your free biodiesel!!

Thanks!!

Biodiesel Pump

Biodiesel Pump

The fine print:   You must be a valid customer of Triangle Biofuels, and must have actually purchased and used TBI biodiesel fuel, or been part of an official plant tour by a TBI staff member.  Only one free 5 gallon award per household.  TBI employees and their families are not eligible.  All road taxes and/or sales taxes will be paid by TBI.  This offer expires December 31, 2010.

EU Probing U.S. Biodiesel Tariffs – Ha!

From the Wall Street Journal:

BRUSSELS—The European Commission said Thursday it would investigate whether U.S. biodiesel is being shipped through third countries to avoid tariffs placed last year on direct shipments from the U.S. to the European Union.

The commission, the EU’s executive arm, also said it would examine whether U.S. producers are shipping their product in blends that contain less than 20% pure biodiesel to avoid the tariffs, which only apply to blends containing more than 20%.

Ahhh,, in a word “Yes”.  Within a month after the EU passed the tariff, we were contacted by an exporter that wanted to buy our biodiesel to export to Europe through the Caribbean.   We declined, as we believe in using it domestically (over 95% of our fuel is used here in North Carolina).  The exporter, ironically is now out of business.

But the bigger irony is that biodiesel production has basically been crippled in the United States because of the failure of Congress to pass the biodiesel tax credit, and because of other encumbering and onerous government compliance reporting programs that are choking the industry.

According to DOE reports, in 2008, there were approximately 678 Million gallons of biodiesel produced in the USA.  In 2009, production appears to be less than 200 Million.  The 2010 DOE biodiesel production data are not released yet, but given the tax credit was not renewed in December of 2010, estimates are as low as 50 Million gallons of biodiesel will be produced in all of 2010. I know the NBB national convention was a ghost town this year in Dallas, compared to previous years attendance.

I don’t think the the EU needs to do a thing here.  Just sit back and watch our renewable fuel economy shrivel up and die.  Our congress is doing all the work for them.  Problem solved.

All the squawking by the President and Congress about supporting domestic renewable fuels, supporting small business, and creating “green” jobs appears to just be smoke.  So what exactly is the EU really worried about here?  Kicking a dying horse when it’s down?

The full WSJ article is here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704407804575424750813493056.html and is worth reading since it talks about Europe being the biggest biofuel market in the world.  That means it’s bigger than Brazil’s ethanol (and soon biodiesel) economy and our own here in the USA, yet the USA is by far the largest consumer of petroleum fuel in the world.  Shouldn’t we be the largest biofuel market in the world, just by sheer statistics?

It would therefore be easy to presume that the support for the petroleum industry and lack of initiative towards the biofuel industry must be intentional, otherwise it would not be so.

Biofuels in the USA is a complex issue apparently, but it shouldn’t be.  Biodiesel is renewable, domestic, clean, and supports local jobs and local agriculture.  If you’re reading this and never have tried biodiesel in your diesel car or truck, why not?  Try it, ask for it at your gas station, google “biodiesel” and find your nearest producer.   Let’s start using biodiesel here at home where it will help everybody in this country and let the Europeans find something else to complain about us over.

RFA Disputes Dead Zone Tie to Ethanol

From domesticfuel.com:

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle this week blames ethanol production for the so-called “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, which it compares to the oil disaster currently facing that body of water.

The article prompted a response from Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen, who starts off a letter to the editor by saying, “it is clear the San Francisco Chronicle has a dead zone of its own where facts die and science is buried.”Renewable Fuels  Association Logo

Dinneen notes that scientific study of hypoxia in the Gulf, which creates what is called a “dead zone” where oxygen is depleted, has failed to find any one cause. Dinneen quotes one researcher who says, “credible evidence shows that [excess] nutrients [in the Gulf] may also be derived from atmospheric deposition, sewage and industrial discharge and fertilizer runoff from residential areas. Nutrient runoff from suburban areas roughly equals that of agriculture lands.” That would include things like golf courses, residential lawns and office parks.

As to ethanol contributing to an increase in Gulf hypoxia, Dinneen says, “The facts dispute the very basis of the article. U.S. cropland has not expanded because of ethanol. There are fewer acres of corn today in the U.S. than there were in the 1920s-1940s. Corn acres topped 100 million acres several times in the late 1920s/early 1930s. Compare that to this year’s corn acreage of 87.9 million. In fact, corn acres have fallen 6% since 2007.”

Read Dinneen’s letter here.

Oil Industry Gains Billions of Dollars in Government Subsidies

I bet their subsidy doesn’t have to be renewed every year…

From the AllGov website:

Oil industry lobbyists are decrying a proposed new tax on the industry to pay for the cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico disaster—while at the same time their clients reap huge subsidies from the federal government.

An investigation by The New York Times led to the conclusion that the oil industry is “among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process.”

For instance, BP was able to write off 70% of the cost of leasing the Deepwater Horizon oil platform from owner Transocean.

A report by the Congressional Budget Office from 2005 showed the industry pays about 9% tax on oil field leases and drilling equipment—“significantly lower than the overall rate of 25% for businesses in general and lower than virtually any other industry, wrote The New York Times.

Total tax breaks for the oil industry average $4 billion a year.

Biodiesel Tax Credit Update –

Via OPIS:

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) is continuing to push for the $1/gal biodiesel tax credit to be reinstated as soon as possible.

“As the U.S. Senate continues to tinker with the tax extenders package, biodiesel plants in Iowa and around the country remain idle and continue to lay- off workers,” said IRFA Past President and Western Iowa Energy Board Member Denny Mauser, in a statement issued on Friday.

The one-year, retroactive extension of the biodiesel tax credit is included in a tax extenders package (H.R. 4213) that remains in the Senate. Last Thursday, despite attempts to further reduce the cost of the $118 billion tax extenders package, the Senate was unable to approve cloture — essentially limiting debate on the measure and moving towards passage — on an amended version of the bill by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). To approve a cloture motion, 60 approval votes are needed, but the Senate only received 56, with 40 votes against the motion.

“The president stated on Tuesday [during his Oval Office address] that he would not settle for inaction on tackling America’s addiction to fossil fuels, but that is exactly what happened,” Mauser continued. “The Senate failed once again to jumpstart the proven petroleum-displacing ability of America’s first advanced biofuel. By restoring the biodiesel tax incentive, one billion gallons of renewable fuel can begin displacing crude oil immediately,” he noted.

Additionally, on Friday the Senate passed legislation to prevent Medicare doctors from receiving a 21% pay cut starting this week — a provision called “doc fix” that was taken out of the tax extenders bill, Mauser explained. “It took one hundred senators to agree to the ‘doc fix.’ While I understand that is important, how can the biodiesel industry be left in the lurch as a million or more gallons of crude oil continue to spew into the Gulf waters each day?,” he continued. “Any one senator could have stood up and said, ‘Let’s end the pay cuts and job losses for workers in the biodiesel industry at the same time as we pass the doctor pay-cut fix.’  After six months of devastating inaction, its past time for that type of Senate leadership,” he added.

Meanwhile, legislative sources following the tax extenders issue expect the Senate to continue discussing the package, with supporters likely to cut more funding in order to gain the necessary 60 votes to pass the tax package.

Although, sources believe the biodiesel tax credit is not on the chopping block.

H.R. 4213, also known as the JOBS bill, is an amended version of the legislation that passed the House in late May, after some cuts were made to help offset the cost of the bill and gain congressional support. Since the Senate is likely to make changes to the House version of the bill, the measure will have to be re-approved in the House before it is sent to the president for his signature.

Still, it remains a frustrating time for the biodiesel industry. The biodiesel tax credit expired at the end of last year, and since then, the U.S. industry has been operating at reduced rates.

Meanwhile, even if the tax extenders bill with the biodiesel tax credit extension is passed into law, which only provides an extension through the end of this year. But sources say the priority “first and foremost” remains on the retroactive extension.

German Biofuel Use for Transportation to Stagnate, Group Says

Are you listening Congress?  This is why you need to get the tax credit renewed as quickly as possible and make it a multi-year incentive program.

June 10 (Bloomberg) — German use of ethanol and biodiesel to power vehicles will stagnate for the next few years because of insufficient government incentives, a renewable-energy lobby group said.

Biofuels will make up about 5 percent to 6 percent of total transportation fuels in the period, little changed from 2009, said Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes, a board member of the BEE German Renewable Energy Federation, in an interview today in Berlin.

“There is no stable policy framework for biofuels and this is hurting their use,” he said.

Biofuel and biodiesel made up 5.4 percent of total transportation fuels last year in Germany. Use of fuels made from plants has fallen in Europe’s largest economy after the government eliminated tax exemptions for consumers.

Tax breaks for biofuels and biodiesel are the best way to encourage expanding their use, said Hinrichs-Rahlwes.