Trump administration ethanol rules may help Iowa farmers


Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels.com

Tyler Chalfant | October 10th, 2019

On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture proposed new rules promoting ethanol consumption over petroleum. This move is considered primarily to be an economic strategy aimed at reducing the pressure placed on farmers by ongoing trade wars.

The plan would involve increasing biofuel sales above the current 15 billion gallons annually. It would also make 15 percent ethanol fuels more available at gas stations domestically as well as increase access to foreign markets. Iowa farmers say they have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due as U.S. trade policy has destabilized agriculture markets and EPA waivers have decreased demand for ethanol. 

Iowa is the nation’s leading producer of ethanol biofuels, and the industry supports nearly 43,000 jobs in the state. Elected officials from Iowa have criticized the Trump administration on previous moves perceived as harming the biofuel industry. In August, the EPA granted 31 waivers to oil refineries, exempting them from laws requiring them to blend biofuels into their gasoline. 

Since January 2017, the Trump administration has granted 85 biofuel waivers to small refineries. The new proposal claims that larger refineries will carry the extra burden by blending in ethanol for those exempted, although this is something that the EPA has not successfully enforced in the past. Farmers say that the new plan also lacks details on how these rules will be enforced going forward.

Iowa’s Rep. Loebsack encourages Hillary Clinton to focus on renewable energy


Rep. Dave Loebsack. (Nick Fetty/CGRER)
Rep. Dave Loebsack proposed legislation that would establish a national flood center, possibly at the University of Iowa, during an press conference in Iowa City on June 6, 2016. (Nick Fetty/CGRER)

Nick Fetty | July 29, 2016

Iowa congressman Dave Loebsack encouraged Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to make renewable energy a major part of her platform during an event earlier this week, as reported by the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Rep. Loebsack – who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee – spoke at a forum Wednesday entitled POLITICO Caucus: Energy and the Election, sponsored by Vote4Energy. The forum was part of the events associated with the Democratic National Convention which took place in Philadelphia this week. Joining Loebsack on the panel was Reps. Boyle (D-PA) and Tonko (D-NY) as well as former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell.

Much of Loebsack’s emphasis was on energy issues important to Iowans such as biofuels, wind, and solar.

“Energy policy is exceedingly important in Iowa. The renewable fuel standard has been important in Iowa, not just for ethanol, not just for corn ethanol, but for cellulosic ethanol, for biofuels of other sorts as well. These are also good for the environment. They can bring together people as far as I’m concerned,” Loebsack said at the forum.

Loebsack – currently the lone Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation – represents Iowa’s 2nd District, the southeast corner of the state that includes Iowa City. The Sioux City native and former Cornell College political science professor has held his seat since 2006.

Full video of the panel discussion is available on politico.com.

On The Radio: Iowa company uses CO2 to create beneficial algae


BioProcess Algae Biofarmer inspects a crop prior to harvest. (BioProcess Algae)
A BioProcess Algae Biofarmer inspects a crop prior to harvest in 2013. (BioProcess Algae)

September 21, 2015

This week’s On The Radio segment looks at BioProcess Algae, an Iowa based-company utilizing carbon dioxide to create an algae that can be used as a fuel source. 

Transcript: Bioprocess Algae

An Iowa-based company is using a unique technology to reduce carbon pollution.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

While Iowa’s sustainable energy industry is looking to reduce carbon emissions, BioProcess Algae in Shenandoah is using CO2 to create oxygen-producing algae. This form of carbon sequestration – harnessing existing carbon dioxide for commercial and environmental uses, keeping it out of the atmosphere – uses advanced bioreactors to combine light and CO2. The result is “crops” of algae that can be used in fuels and animal feed.

Algae are rich in oils, carbohydrates, sugars and proteins, making them ideal for livestock and even human consumption. But BioProcess believes algae products could one day replace gasoline – citing that petroleum developed in large part from algae that grew millions of years ago.

BioProcess recently moved from its staring point in Rhode Island to Shenandoah to be closer its primary CO2 source, a corn-fueled ethanol plant. That means that a portion of the ethanol plant’s CO2 waste is being prevented from entering the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.

For more information about algae, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

http://www.bioprocessalgae.com/news/

http://www.ecori.org/climate-change/2015/9/9/captured-carbon-creates-new-business-opportunities

Branstad questions EPA’s new Renewable Fuel Standard


Iowa governor Terry Branstad at a 2011 event in Des Moines. (Flickr)
Iowa governor Terry Branstad at a 2011 event in Des Moines. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | June 26, 2015

During a public hearing of EPA’s new Renewable Fuel Standard in Kansas City on Thursday, Iowa governor Terry Branstad questioned the new policy and the economic impact it will have on the Hawkeye State.

Nearly 300 people made statements during the public event which will be the only one EPA plans to host before a final decision is made in November. Brandstad and other supporters of the current fuel standard feel that it is necessary “to force oil companies to improve infrastructure at gas pumps to deliver ethanol fuel blends above the current 10 percent mix.”

“The EPA has a choice: protect the deep pockets of Big Oil and their monopolistic practices or nurture consumer choice, renewable energy growth and a healthy rural economy,” Branstad said.

The proposed plan, which was set by congress, calls for a reduction of 4 billion gallons this year and an additional 5 billion gallons in 2016. Branstad cited the financial impacts the proposal would have on Iowa’s economy pointing out that corn has gone from $6 per bushel in August 2013 to $3.45 per bushel currently. He said this has caused uncertainty in the market and has led to fewer investments in biofuel technologies.

Proponents of the new standard say that it would increase overall biofuel production and use over time. Officials from the oil industry also argue that retailers are not equipped to sell gasoline with ethanol levels greater than 10 percent and that customer demand has not warranted an investment in new infrastructure.

Other have questioned the feasibility of biofuels altogether, citing that production requires large amounts of water and other resources.

Iowa leads the nation biofuel production with 42 ethanol plants and 13 biodiesel plants.

On the Radio: Energy from manure to receive a boost


(dmblue444/Flickr)
(dmblue444/Flickr)

June 8, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks to a new standard that could give a boost to an energy industry that utilizes animal manure. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Energy from manure to receive a boost

BY NICK FETTY

A RECENT CHANGE BY THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, COULD BOOST AN ENERGY INDUSTRY IN IOWA THAT UTILIZES ANIMAL MANURE.

THIS IS THE IOWA ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS.

LAST SUMMER, THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY REVISED ITS RENEWABLE FUELS STANDARD TO GIVE BIOGAS MORE VALUE IN THE FUEL MARKETPLACE. THIS HAS MADE IT SO THAT THE FUELS DERIVED FROM ANIMAL MANURE AND OTHER SOURCES CAN BETTER COMPETE WITH BIOFUELS SUCH AS ETHANOL. METHANE GAS IN PARTICULAR CAN BE EXTRACTED FROM THESE RESOURCES AND USED TO CREATE RENEWABLE ENERGY.

A 2013 REPORT BY THE NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY LABORATORY FOUND THAT IOWA LED THE NATION IN THE AMOUNT OF METHANE AVAILABLE FROM ANIMAL MANURE.

IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY TEAMED UP WITH THE DES MOINES-BASED COMPANY –“ECO-ENGINEERINGS” TO CREATE AN INTERACTIVE MAP AND WEBSITE THAT ALLOWS USERS TO VIEW THE AMOUNT OF METHANE-CONTAINING WASTE IN THEIR AREA.

FOR A LINK TO THE MAP OR TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS INITIATIVE, VISIT IOWA.ENVIROINMENTALFOCUS.ORG.

FROM THE UI CENTER FOR GLOBAL AND REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, I’M JERRY SCHNOOR.

https://iowaenvironmentalfocus.org/2015/04/23/animal-manure-could-create-a-new-energy-market-in-iowa/

On the Radio: Gas tax may lead to increased biodiesel use


(Rob E / Flickr)
(Rob E / Flickr)

May 4, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a possible increase in biodiesel use due to recent changes in the Iowa gas tax. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Biodiesel

Iowa’s recently approved gas tax may lead to increasing use of biodiesel.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Last month, the Iowa legislature approved a ten cent increase in the gas tax, revenue which will go toward fixing our aging roads and bridges. While the increase applies to both gasoline and conventional diesel, biodiesel received a three cent exemption from the tax for certain blends. Biodiesel proponents hope this provision will lead to expanded use of the fuels.

Iowa’s ten operating biodiesel plants produced 227 million gallons of the biofuel last year, from soybeans and other oils. The Iowa Biodiesel Board estimates that Iowa has an annual capacity of more than 300 million gallons. The Department of Revenue projects 13 percent of Iowa’s petroleum to be replaced by biofuels by 2020, short of the legislative goal of 25 percent.

For more information about biofuels, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/articles/318242/iowa-gas-tax-proposal-would-spur-growth-of-biodiesel-use

Purdue University study finds improved profitability, sustainability in cover crop technique


Nick Fetty | August 5, 2014

Shredded corn stover. (Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center/Flickr)
Shredded corn stover. (Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center/Flickr)

Farmers who use cover crops as a means of soil conservation can produce higher yields of corn stover which leads to increased profits, according to a recent study by researchers at Purdue University.

Cover crops such as crimson clover or annual ryegrass help to “blanket the soil” which allows farmers to sustainably yield an additional 1.8 tons of stover per acre compared to traditional methods, the research finds. This stover can then be used to produce biofuels among other uses. One study suggests that corn stover can “supply as much as 25 percent of the biofuel crop needed by 2030.” However, over-harvesting of corn stover has been known to strip the soil of important nutrients.

Cover crops not only help to produce biomass through corn stover but also have benefits for the soil including reduced erosion even in no-till soil, reduced nitrate leaching, increased soil organic matter, improved soil health, quality, and productivity, as well as fewer winter annual and early season weeds. These techniques can be beneficial for both corn-corn and corn-soybean crop rotations.

The study was a collaboration between researchers at the Purdue Extension as well as Praxic, an Ames, Iowa-based software company. To learn more about corn stover in Iowa, check out the 2013 Iowa Corn Sustainable Corn Stover Harvest guide.