Weekly REsource for April 6, 2012
Renewable Energy Posts Remarkable Gains
Renewable energy advocates have spent the past several months operating in a defensive mode against an onslaught of naysaying and criticism that has more basis in political theater than in reality. However, the value of renewable energy was never better demonstrated than in the March monthly energy review issued late last week by the DOE's Energy Information Administration.
The report, which lists U.S. energy production and consumption data up through Dec. 31, 2011, offers both a respite from the bluster of short-sighted critics and a ringing response to those who deny the benefits of renewable energy. The EIA analysis shows that renewable energy sources have expanded rapidly in the United States over the past three years, far outpacing the growth rates of fossil fuels and nuclear power. Between January 1, 2009 and the end of last year, renewable energy sources – biofuels, biomass, geothermal, solar, water and wind – grew by more than 27 percent. Over the same period, total domestic energy production increased by just 6.7 percent. Over the same period, crude oil production in the United States grew 14.3 percent and natural gas production grew 13.7 percent, while nuclear power declined by about 2 percent and coal dropped by more than 7 percent. Read more…

News of Note

25x'25 Joins in Call to Lawmakers: Retain Viable Farm Bill Energy Title Programs

The 25x'25 Alliance today joined more than 100 organizations in sending a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees asking for the reauthorization and funding of Farm Bill energy title programs. The programs, the letter said, revitalize rural America, help the emergence of new agricultural markets, enhance national security and improve the environment.

The organizations signing the letter represented a broad and diverse array of renewable energy, energy efficiency, farm, ranch, commodity, environmental, and other groups.

"USDA has been so critical to the successful development of renewable energy solutions to our nation's energy challenges," said Read Smith, co-chairman of the National 25x'25 Steering Committee. "Preserving and funding the Farm Bill energy title programs support a sector that creates jobs and helps revitalize our economy. The programs help develop biofuels that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and improve our national security. They help provide sustainable energy options that enhance our environment."

The letter was organized by the Agriculture Energy Coalition, a broad membership-based consortium of organizations and companies representing the entire spectrum of clean, renewable energy and bioproducts stakeholders, including 25x'25, the National Farmers Union and the Environmental Law and Policy Center, among others.

The letter underscores the benefits of unique Farm Bill energy programs like the Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program, Biorefinery Assistance Program and Biobased Markets Program, telling committee leaders they "strongly support American agriculture" and "result in the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs in rural areas."

The letter urges lawmakers to ensure that farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses have the benefit of dependable and predictable financial support throughout the life of the next Farm Bill.

EPA Approves E15 Registration for 20 Companies

The EPA this week approved the registrations of 20 marketers, retailers and suppliers prepared to sell and distribute gasoline with 15 percent ethanol (E15). The Renewable Fuels Association said the agency's approval of E15 as a registered fuel brings the industry "one step closer to seeing low-cost, renewable E15 sold into the American fuels marketplace."

The approval is the most significant development in a three year effort to approve sale of the mid-level ethanol blend, and it follows EPA's approval of health effects testing of the fuel in February, industry officials say.

"Our nation needs E15 to reduce our dependence on foreign oil – it will keep gas prices down at the pump and help to end the extreme fluctuations in gas prices caused by our reliance on fuel from unstable parts of the world," said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. "Today's announcement from EPA finally puts that goal within reach."

"This announcement strengthens the ethanol industry's efforts to innovate and continue to deliver domestically-produced and affordable alternatives to foreign oil," said Buis. "With ethanol selling an average of a dollar a gallon cheaper than gasoline and $4 a gallon gasoline on the horizon, we'd encourage all Americans to ask their local filling station how soon they will see more-affordable E15."

"American consumers may soon have some much deserved relief at the pump," said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. "The EPA decision clears yet another major hurdle in bringing E15 to the marketplace."

Dinneen said states in the Midwest have begun to address their regulatory requirements "and perhaps as early as summer we could see E15 at fuel stations in the Heartland of America."

Vilsack Announces Advanced Biofuels Industry Roundtable

The USDA, along with the DOE and the Department of the Navy, will co-host an Advanced Biofuels Industry Roundtable in Washington, D.C., May 18, as the next step in the partnership with the private sector to produce advanced biofuels to power military and commercial transportation. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement earlier this week during his keynote address to the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference.

"Advanced biofuels are a key component of President Obama's 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy to limit the impact that foreign oil has on our economy and take control of our energy future," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "By bringing together farmers, scientists, and the private sector to produce fuel for the American military, we can help spur an industry producing biofuels from non-food feedstocks all over the nation, strengthen our middle class, and help create an economy built to last."     

"The Biofuels Industry Roundtable will produce the market and industry expertise necessary to develop a domestic biofuel market capable of producing alternative fuel that is cost-competitive with traditional fuel," stated Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. "The Departments of Navy, Agriculture, and Energy are investing in an existing private industry to spur growth, and each department will closely monitor how that investment is used to achieve the president's objectives."

The May 18 roundtable will focus on efforts to accelerate the production of bio-based fuels for military and commercial purposes. Last year, USDA, the DOE and the Navy announced that under the Defense Production Act, the departments will collaborate to accelerate the development of advanced, drop-in aviation and marine biofuels and marine diesel to help power U.S. military services.

Participants in this roundtable will discuss next steps for those interested in pursuing the production of aviation biofuels and marine diesel. Topics will include production, distribution and contracting, and best practices. The roundtable follows a "match making" event hosted last week at USDA headquarters to promote connections between agricultural producers of energy feedstocks and biorefineries.

Boeing Joins Airbus, Embraer to Accelerate Aviation Biofuel Commercialization

The Boeing Company, Europe's Airbus and Brazil's Embraer have signed an agreement to work together on the development of drop-in, affordable aviation biofuels. The three leading airframe manufacturers agreed to seek collaborative opportunities to speak in unity to government, biofuel producers and other key stakeholders to support, promote and accelerate the availability of sustainable new jet fuel sources.

The collaboration agreement supports a multi-pronged approach by the industry to reduce its carbon emissions. Industry leaders say continuous innovation, spurred by competitive market dynamics that push each manufacturer to continuously improve product performance, and air traffic modernization, are other critical elements to achieving carbon-neutral growth beyond 2020, and halving industry emissions by 2050 based on 2005 levels.

"There are times to compete and there are times to cooperate," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh. "Two of the biggest threats to our industry are the price of oil and the impact of commercial air travel on our environment. By working with Airbus and Embraer on sustainable biofuels, we can accelerate their availability and reduce our industry's impacts on the planet we share."

"We've achieved a lot in the last ten years in reducing our industry's CO2 footprint – a 45 percent traffic growth with only three percent more fuel consumption," said Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders. "The production and use of sustainable quantities of aviation biofuels is key to meeting our industry's ambitious CO2 reduction targets and we are helping to do this through research and technology, our expanding network of worldwide value chains and supporting the EU commission towards its target of four percent of biofuel for aviation by 2020."

All three companies are affiliate members of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, which includes 23 leading airlines responsible for approximately 25 percent of annual aviation fuel use.

Senators Introduce the Bipartisan Bill to Streamline Fuel Distribution

Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) have introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide a market-based, no-cost approach to produce more energy, increase competition, foster greater sales of alternative fuels, provide more consumer choice and lower the cost of motor fuels at the pump.

Currently, legal and infrastructure obstacles, such as cost of entry for retailers, inconsistent standards, and other regulatory factors limit the amount of renewable fuels that can be sold through existing motor fuel retail outlets. The Domestic Fuels Act of 2012 takes a market-based approach driven by supply and demand that makes it easier to market all fuels and give consumers more choice at the pump. It achieves this by:
  • Streamlining the process so that all fuels, both traditional and renewable, can be stored and dispensed with common equipment. The bill requires the EPA to develop streamlined criteria so that underground tanks can be used to dispense gasoline, diesel, ethanol or some combination of fuels, rather than requiring the use of separate tanks.
  • Providing liability protection for retailers that meet the streamlined EPA standards, so that they can sell multiple types of fuel with less red tape, providing consumers with more choice and lower fuel prices.
  • Establishing a new pathway for retailers to ensure that their equipment is safe and legally recognized as compatible to sell new fuels, thereby reducing the cost of entry for many retailers.

"We need to make all fuels available to American consumers and businesses, and we need to do so by using tested market-based measures that increase competition and remove bureaucratic obstacles to producing and marketing both domestic and traditional fuels," Hoeven said. "This is really about giving customers more choice and better prices at the pump by empowering retailers to market multiple fuels using the same equipment. That's good for the customer, good for business and good for the nation."

Headlines of Note for the Week Ending April 6, 2012
News of interest to our 25x'25 Partners and advocates for a clean energy future:


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