The Russian invasion of Ukraine will strain world grain supplies for months to come, driving up prices and inflation rates, said a panel of economists on Tuesday. "God forbid we have a weather problem this year," said Dan Basse, head of AgResource Co., who described war in the Black Sea region as the greatest supply shock since World War I.
Verbio North America says it will more than double the capacity of its plant in central Iowa to produce renewable natural gas from corn stover, and it plans to begin production of corn ethanol in the final months of the year. The facility was the first of three plants in the nation to return to biofuel production after faltering as a producer of cellulosic ethanol, made from grasses, woody plants and crop residue.
During congressional committee work on the Biden administration's $3.5 trillion "build back better" bill, majority-party House Democrats approved a $35 billion expansion of child nutrition programs last week and were expected to vote on Monday for an additional $66 billion for forestry, rural economic development and agricultural research.
Projects in 23 states across the nation will receive a combined $26 million to install pumps, tanks, and other equipment for selling higher-blend biofuels, said the USDA on Thursday. The projects are expected to expand the availability of higher-blend fuels by 822 million gallons annually.
The ethanol industry is optimistic the Biden administration will issue far fewer exemptions from the ethanol mandate than the Trump administration did despite a Supreme Court setback. Justices overturned, 6-3, an appellate court ruling that greatly restricted the eligibility of small refineries for "hardship" waivers from complying with the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The Department of Agriculture announced the first round of grants on Thursday from a $100 million program for the installation of pumps and storage tanks to increase the sale of higher blends of biofuels, such as E15 or E85. Projects in 14 states, from California to Florida and New York, will be funded by the $22 million in grants, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Grants totaling $100 million will be available to install or retrofit fuel pumps and storage tanks to handle higher blends of corn ethanol and biodiesel than now commonly offered, said the USDA, with details to be available by mid-spring. "USDA will continue to do its part to encourage the use of home-grown energy," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Congress is on the verge of retroactive restoration of the $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax credit, a result of the last-minute inclusion of a package of tax breaks in a mammoth government funding bill. The House passed the bill on Tuesday, and the Senate is expected to approve it by the end of the week.
Administration officials will hold their first White House meeting in a month on the Renewable Fuel Standard, as ethanol makers and corn growers fear an attack on the ethanol mandate. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said if the White House weakens the RFS, it "will be viewed as nothing less than a declaration of war on rural America and a complete abdication of [President Trump's] repeated promises to protect the RFS."
Biodiesel makers in Argentina and Indonesia should face anti-dumping duties of up to 277 percent on their shipments to the United States, ruled the Commerce Department in a case brought by domestic producers.
An investigation by activist groups Mighty Earth and ActionAid USA challenges the notion of biodiesel as the environmentally responsible fuel of the future. Burned: Deception, Deforestation and America’s Biodiesel Policy claims that growing demand for biodiesel in the U.S. contributes to a host of problems, from deforestation in Argentina and Indonesia to algae blooms in Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said that he doubts there is room for a compromise with oil-state senators over the Renewable Fuel Standard, and that there had been no discussion among senators about one.
President Trump will meet oil industry leaders and their congressional allies for a discussion of the biofuels mandate, reported Reuters, based on two sources. The meeting "could set the stage for negotiations to overhaul the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard," said the wire service; the industry has pressed for years to eliminate the mandate or revise its requirement to blend biofuels into gasoline and diesel fuel.
Farm-state officials played their Trump card six weeks ago, calling in White House support to quash potential cuts in the Renewable Fuel Standard, which sets U.S. targets for biofuel consumption.
Argentina has requested negotiations with the United States on a "suspension" agreement that would avoid imposition of stiff U.S. anti-dumping duties on its biodiesel exports, said the Commerce Department. The negotiations were announced at the same time the department ordered anti-dumping duties of up to 70 percent on the fuel.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won’t let go of his “hold” on USDA nominee Bill Northey, said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, so he and fellow Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst have appealed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to arrange a vote. “We want to do it as soon after Nov. 30 as we can,” Grassley told ag reporters.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt quelled midwestern protests over a potential change in course by the Trump administration, saying there would be no additional cuts in the biofuels mandate proposed for 2018. But two groups, the National Biodiesel Board and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said the government ought to raise the target for biodiesel.
The winner of the 2016 Iowa presidential caucuses, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he will block a confirmation vote on a key USDA nominee until President Trump convenes a meeting to hash out oil-state complaints about the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The EPA erred when it set the target for biofuels use in 2016 below the levels specified by Congress, said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a decision that vacated the regulation and ordered EPA to try again. The three-judge panel said EPA improperly interpreted the "inadequate supply provision" that allows it to waive the statutory targets for renewable fuel use.