Despite a challenging 2012, Minnesota’s ethanol producers are optimistic about the industry’s future, fueled by a new state Department of Agriculture report showing the industry’s strength. U.S. ethanol production is headed to drop for the first time in 16 years this year, as it’s caught between high prices for the corn it buys and low prices for the ethanol it sells. The Energy Department says output is down 14 percent this year.
KiOR, a renewable fuel start-up based in Pasadena, Tex., said Thursday that it had produced a crude oil made from wood chips at a plant in Mississippi and expected to refine it into gasoline and diesel and sell it commercially later this month. That would be a first for the cellulosic biofuel sector. In a conference call with investment analysts, company executives would not say just how much they had made at the conversion plant, in Columbus, Miss., or how well it was running. But they said the remaining step, refining the oil into products, would involve standard technology
Proponents of the renewable fuel standard are girding for a tough year ahead despite scoring what they characterize as victories in the elections this week. They expect there will be congressional attempts to reform, if not outright repeal, the standard, which mandates certain levels of both traditional ethanol and advanced biofuels be blended into the fuel supply each year. The RFS could rise to the No. 1 energy issue in Congress next year, some industry observers predict.
“This election was supposed to be about wealthy Big Oil-backed special interests spending unprecedented resources to wipe pro-environment candidates off the map,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. “But voters chose a different course.”
U.S. ethanol production is headed for the first decline in 16 years, jeopardizing the nation’s drive to boost alternative fuels, as higher costs and lower demand close plants.
New Jersey’s senators yesterday urged U.S. EPA to relax rules on shipping biofuel along the East Coast to help relieve residents facing gasoline shortages after Hurricane Sandy. Millions of gallons of biofuel, they said, have not been able to make it to New Jersey since the storm last week damaged two shipping facilities in the state. The shipments cannot be rerouted under current rules because other facilities on the East Coast do not have the proper equipment required by EPA.
The most expensive election in U.S. history came to a relatively quick end this morning, with President Obama surging to re-election after a campaign that was marked by sharp divisions over how Americans should continue to power their homes and cars while protecting air and water quality. The president won a solid victory, prevailing in most of the hotly contested swing states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, whose economies have benefited from new discoveries of oil and natural gas, as well as Colorado and Iowa, where support for renewable energy became a key campaign issue. In all, the president took 50 percent of the vote and 303 electoral votes, with only Florida’s 29 electoral votes still up for grabs as of early this morning. Republican Mitt Romney took 48 percent, and was sitting at 206 electoral votes.
New Energy Corp. tried to hold on as long as it could, Russ Abarr, its president, said today. But late last week, the South Bend ethanol plant joined several other prominent ethanol industry companies by idling its plant, resulting in the lay off 40 workers.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, renewable fuel producers in Iowa have asked the Obama administration to allow higher amounts of ethanol to be blended in gasoline in the Northeast. In a letter yesterday to President Obama, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said temporarily allowing up to 20 percent ethanol in gasoline would help lower gas prices for victims of the superstorm. The association urged the administration to waive requirements that gasoline retailers must comply with before selling the higher blends of ethanol.
We won’t know until later this week who will hold the Senate energy gavel in the next Congress, but the two veteran lawmakers in line for the slot are pledging to preserve the panel’s bipartisan reputation, regardless of which party claims a majority in the upper chamber. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) expect to be the chair and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee next year, although who claims what spot will be decided by voters in a handful of states likely to determine which party controls the Senate. Republicans need to flip three Democratic seats to gain the majority if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) wins tomorrow, or four if President Obama is re-elected.