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Ethanol and biodiesel boost bottom line for farmers

Nebraska TV | Posted on May 25, 2017

Ethanol shines in Nebraska -- creating jobs in communities like Cambridge, Ord, and Ravenna, while also boosting the bottom line for farmers. Nebraska produces more than two billion gallons a year, with two dozen plants, most in small communities. Ethanol, even higher blends up to 85 percent widely available in Nebraska. But it's another biofuel made from soybeans – biodiesel – that’s seen a big jump in recent years.Soy biodiesel demand has skyrocketed a thousand percent in the last decade, and that also means more soybean meal as a byproduct, as producers crush more soybeans for their oil.

Bill in Ohio House would permanently subsidize 2 coal-fired power plants

Columbus Dispatch | Posted on May 25, 2017

A new proposal in the Ohio House would provide a perpetual subsidy for two coal-fired power plants owned jointly by American Electric Power and just about every other major electricity utility in the state. House Bill 239 calls for the owners of Ohio Valley Electric Corp. to receive a guarantee of income at times when the market price of electricity is less than the cost to operate the power plants. That money would come from a charge to consumers.The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio already has approved a similar plan for AEP, which leads to a varying monthly charge that is now about $2 per month for a typical household.The legislation would take the PUCO’s action, which needs to be re-approved every few years, and make it last for the remainder of the life of the plants — which could be decades. Also, the bill would provide benefits to all Ohio Valley Electric co-owners in the state, not just AEP.

Overview of Iowa Biofuel Tax Credits and Ethanol Blends Sales

Agriculture Marketing and Resource Center | Posted on May 25, 2017

Ethanol consumption  has been promoted at the state level. In Iowa for instance, the Iowa General Assembly authorized House File 2754 in 2006. This legislation established the goal that 25% of all petroleum used in the formulation of gasoline in Iowa be replaced by biofuels by 2020. To support this goal, several refundable tax credits were enacted for biofuel retailers. As of now, Iowa biofuel retailers have four tax credits available: The Ethanol Promotion Tax Credit, the E85 Gasoline Promotion Tax Credit, the E15 Plus Gasoline Promotion Tax Credit, and the Biodiesel Blended Fuel Tax Credit (IDR, 2014). 

Were farmers cheated by NIPSCO's 100-mile power line project?

South Bend Tribune | Posted on May 25, 2017

A for-profit utility company claims it tried to be a good neighbor to meet concerns of farmers affected by a 100-mile power line that is under construction and will cross several northern Indiana counties.But farmers who are dealing with the downsides — such as gravel roads through their crops and poles that need to be farmed around — say they feel cheated by the Northern Indiana Public Service Co."I think they're absolutely crooks," said Karl Faulstich, who runs a 330-acre farm with his father near Plymouth.The Faulstiches were among hundreds of landowners who had no choice but to sell rights for a 200-foot-wide easement needed by NIPSCO to build the "Reynolds to Topeka" line, which is named after its southern and northern ends, respectively.Counties impacted by the nearly $300 million project are White, Pulaski, Starke, Marshall, Kosciusko, Elkhart and LaGrange. At the Faulstich farm, the line is being built less than 100 feet from a cattle barn. Nine power poles that are being built will make it challenging to harvest crops on the farm, and a gravel road for the project has taken over part of an alfalfa field.

There aren’t enough slaughterhouses to support the farm-to-table economy

Bloomberg | Posted on May 24, 2017

While the situation varies from species to species and state to state, sellers of noncommodity pork, beef, and chicken agree: there simply aren't enough facilities to humanely and safely kill their animals. The numbers are stark. In 1967 there were 9,627 livestock (cattle, calf, hog and sheep) slaughtering establishments in the U.S. That same year, Congress passed the Wholesome Meat Act, requiring producers to use a USDA-inspected facility if they sell meat across state lines. A mass consolidation of the meat industry followed. Today, commodity meat is dominated by large companies. Just four companies sell about 85% of America's beef and the pork and chicken markets are similarly controlled by huge corporations. By 2016, there were only about 1,100 federally inspected meat and poultry slaughterhouses in the country.But customers are increasingly demanding free-range meat from smaller producers that, largely because of the lack of slaughterhouse, aren't able to supply it fast or cheap enough. Volume sales for free-range meat, for example, was up 26.9 percent in 2016, while conventional was down 0.5 percent, according to data from Nielsen Fresh.Just a handful of large slaughterhouses handle a disproportionate amount of that American meat: Of those approximately 1,100 facilities, 215 large slaughter establishments (defined as 500 or more employees) produce about 75 percent to 90 percent of the country's volume. At the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, N.C., for example, approximately 30,000 to 34,000 hogs are reportedly slaughtered each day. At the other end of the spectrum is Dealaman, the only federally inspected hog slaughterhouse in New Jersey, which processes a paltry 1,200 pigs a week.The explanations for the struggles of the small slaughterhouses vary but inevitably come down to two interrelated factors—regulations that favor large meatpackers and uneven enforcement of those regulations.

Wisconsin EPA approves filling of wetlands to build frac sand facility

| Posted on May 24, 2017

Wisconsin’s environmental protection agency has authorized a Georgia timber company to fill more than 16 acres of Monroe County wetlands in order to build a $65 million frac sand facility.Meteor Timber, one of the largest private landowners in Wisconsin, has proposed building a processing and loading facility along Interstate 94 near the town of Millston to dry and ship frac sand the company will mine from a nearby site it acquired in a 2014 purchase of nearly 50,000 acres.The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Friday granted the company a permit allowing it to fill the wetlands, including about 13 acres of “pristine” and increasingly rare hardwood swamp. Meteor must still receive permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before filling any wetlands. The company must also apply for permits allowing incidental loss of threatened and endangered species during construction. Meteor must still receive permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before filling any wetlands. The company must also apply for permits allowing incidental loss of threatened and endangered species during construction.After the proposal first received media attention, Meteor proposed to restore and preserve more than 640 acres of other land — including more than 296 acres of existing wetlands.“Our company knows that sustainability is an important part of operating responsibly,” Mathis said. “We have worked hard to go above and beyond other projects by developing a historic plan to permanently preserve and restore high-quality wetlands on more than 600 acres. This effort merits support from those who want to see growth, economic development and preserve the environment – because our project accomplishes all three.” However, the DNR determined those mitigation efforts “are not likely to fully compensate” for what it calls “permanent and irreversible” secondary impacts from activity on the site and may not compensate for the direct loss of 13.4 acres of “exceptional quality” white pine and red maple swamp, which is considered an imperiled habitat.The agency also said the permit approval “may lead to increased applications to fill rare, sensitive and valuable wetland plant communities.”Geers said those and other findings bring into question whether the project can be legally approved under state and federal law.

Cooperating microbes convert methane to alternative fuel source

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | Posted on May 23, 2017

Oil and gas wells and even cattle release methane gas into the atmosphere, and researchers are working on ways to not only capture this gas but also convert it into something useful and less-polluting. Now scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a new system to convert methane into a deep green, energy-rich, gelatin-like substance that can be used as the basis for biofuels and other bioproducts, specialty chemicals — and even feed for cows that create the gas in the first place."We take a waste product that is normally an expense and upgrade it to microbial biomass which can be used to make fuel, fertilizer, animal feed, chemicals and other products," said Hans Bernstein, corresponding author of a recent paper in Bioresource Technology. The PNNL process produces a much cleaner product, either liquid or solid, with simply the flick of a light switch or exposure to sunlight. When there's methane to convert, the cyanobacteria absorb light and use carbon dioxide as fuel to produce oxygen, fueling the methane-munching bacteria. When there is not much methane, researchers dim the lights, reducing the oxygen, which slows the action of the methanotrophs. In recent tests the PNNL team ran the system continuously for about two months.

Major fossil fuel firms are using renewable energy to cut costs

Independent | Posted on May 18, 2017

Major mining companies, including some of the world's biggest suppliers of fossil fuel, are seeking to use more renewable energy themselves as they strive to drive down costs and curb emissions. Glencore, the world's biggest shipper of seaborne coal, said in its 2017 sustainability report that it gets 19 per cent of its energy from renewable sources, up a percentage point from last year's report.At the same time, the company reiterated its view that the wider world would carry on burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, and it does not see a risk of its own coal operations becoming stranded assets. "While it is clear that the relative share of renewable energy will grow, the absolute volume of fossil fuels will also grow due to overall growth of energy demand," the report said.

Iowa senator slams energy chief for grid study undermining wind energy

Business Insider | Posted on May 18, 2017

Iowa's Republican senator on Wednesday raised concerns that U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has commissioned a "hastily developed" study of the reliability of the electric grid that appears "geared to undermine" the wind energy industry.In a letter sent to Perry, Senator Chuck Grassley asked a series of questions about the 60-day study he commissioned. Grassley also said the results were pre-determined and would show that intermittent energy sources like wind make the grid unstable.Last month, Perry ordered the grid study and said Obama-era policies offering incentives for the deployment of renewable energy had come at the expense of energy sources like coal and nuclear. "I'm concerned that a hastily developed study, which appears to pre-determine that variable, renewable resources such as wind have undermined grid reliability, will not be viewed as credible, relevant or worthy of valuable taxpayer resources," wrote Grassley, whose state is home to a booming wind energy industry.He pointed to a previous study conducted a few years ago by the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which took two years to complete, not two months.

‘Big Ethanol’ Ad Criticized by Recreational Boating Group

Sporting Fish Magazine | Posted on May 18, 2017

Recreational boating organization BoatUS criticized one of America's top ethanol trade associations, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), for a new advertising campaign published on the Ethanol Producer Magazine's website. The campaign, tied to the start of boating season, supports the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a 2005 law which BoatUS said mandates the blending of biofuels such as corn-ethanol into our gasoline. Groups have long opposed this legislation and made attempts for change. BoatUS said the advertisement includes a lot of alternative facts and issued a press release explaining how the RFA is misrepresenting information.First, BoatUS highlighted the ad campaign's claim that “E10 is the fuel of choice for many boaters because of its high performance and lower emissions.” Boat US says this is misleading because E10 is "simply the most common fuel sold in America today," but that does not mean it is recreational boaters’ preferred choice of fuel.According to those surveyed by BoatUS, 91 percent prefer non-ethanol fuel for their boats," BoatUS says. "Unfortunately, non-ethanol gas is facing more uncertainty as the government mandate to increase the volume of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply may actually reduce the availability of ethanol-free gas."The second misleading fact BoatUS highlighted was the RFA's claim that E10 is the "preferred choice by professionals" with quotes quotes by the National Boat Racing Association and Crappie Masters offered as examples of such experts. BoatUS notes that both organizations are sponsored by the RFA.The third "spin" noted was the ad campaign's tip to "ensure a tight seal, if water is found, dry the tank before refueling." BoatUS called this suggestion "impractical and potentially very unsafe" because "removing and disposing of phase-separated fuel – a result of too much water in moisture-attracting ethanol fuels – can only be done safely by professionals and is expensive."