Renewable Fuels’ Dunkirk

by Jim Lane It’s been a very busy week in Washington DC, the high point being a letter to seven senators sent late Thursday by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who took significant (and as of a few days ago, unexpected) steps toward strengthening the foundation for ethanol and renewable fuels. The truth? It’s a Trump Administration back-down. EPA overreached on de-clawing the Renewable Fuel Standard on behalf on some grumpy oilpatch donors (known as GODs), and the Trump Administration managed to revive a Grand Alliance around renewable fuels — one that now includes almost 40 members of the United States Senate,...

EPA’s 2018 Renewable Fuel Targets Disappoint Producers

In Washington, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final Renewable Fuel Standard renewable volume obligations for 2018. The agency finalized a total renewable fuel volume of 19.29 billion gallons , of which 4.29 BG is advanced biofuel, including 288 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel. As the Renewable Fuels Association explained: “That leaves a 15 BG requirement for conventional renewable fuels like corn ethanol, consistent with the levels envisioned by Congress in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. The 2018 total RFS volume finalized today represents a minor increase (10  million gallons) over the 2017 standards, and a modest increase...

Cellulosic Ethanol and Advanced Biofuels Investments

There's much excitement about second generation biofuels made from cellulosic feedstocks and algae, be they cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, biocrude, or electricity from biomass.  There will be winners, but they may not be the technology companies. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA At the 2009 Advanced Biofuels Workshop, there were two major themes: developing new feedstocks, especially algae, and the development of new pathways to take biomass into products such as biocrude, which can be used in exiting oil refineries.   Big Market, Many Competitors The current federal Renewable Fuel Standard requires the use of 36 million gallons of biofuels, including at...

Cellulosic Electricity: Stock Analysts v. Venture Capitalists

Romm v. Kholsa In a persuasive series of articles, entitled "Pragmatists vs. Environmentalists" (Parts I, II, and III) on Gristmill, Vinod Khosla provides the reasoning behind his "dissing" of plug-in hybrids, which drew the ire of Joeseph Romm.  Neither seems to think the argument is settled, and Joeseph Romm returns fire here. As someone who knows as much about investing as Joe Romm and has written as much about Climate Change and Energy Policy as Vinod Khosla, I feel the need to jump into the debate and settle the matter.  (Will either of them will notice?)...
Aemetis logo

Biofuels & Biobased Earnings Roundup: Aemetis

by Jim Lane The Top Line. In California, Aemetis (AMTX) reported that Q2 revenues increased $4.3 million and gross margins increased by $1.1 million compared to the second quarter of 2017. Similarly, during the first half of 2018, revenues increased $15.7 million and gross margins increased by $3.5 million compared to the first half of 2017. Revenues were $45.0 million for the second quarter of 2018 compared to $40.8 million for the second quarter of 2017, driven by an increase in ethanol sales volumes from 15.6 million gallons to 16.4 million gallons and by stronger wet distillers grain and glycerin demand and pricing. Operating loss...

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Resigns

by Jim Lane In Washington, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned. US President Donald Trump announced the exit on Twitter, commenting, “President Donald Trump announced Pruitt’s exit, saying on Twitter “I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this.” Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler becomes acting administrator. The Digest’s Take Elsewhere in the media, it is widely reported that Pruitt was undone by a growing number of controversies and investigations relating to his conduct as EPA Administrator, particularly relating...

Ethanol Stocks: Risks, Challenges, & Opportunities

The Great Ethanol Debate: Shoddy Economics all 'Round. Like many environmentalists, I'm not a big fan of the ethanol industry, especially corn ethanol.  From a net energy standpoint, even advocates agree that you only get a little more energy out than the energy you put in (Energy Return on Energy Invested or EROEI of 0.9 to 1.5, depending on whom you ask... some say it's much lower.)  At this point, most environmentalists simply decide that ethanol isn't sustainable enough for them, and go back to talking about photovoltaics (EROEI around 8, PDF) and wind (EREOI 30-70, PDF).  The last...

Green Plains Nabs 3 Ethanol Plants On The Cheap

Jim Lane In Nebraska, word has arrived from Green Plains (GPRE) that it will purchase the Madison, Ill., Mount Vernon, Ind. and York, Neb. ethanol facilities from Abengoa (ABGOY) Bioenergy with combined annual production capacity of 236 million gallons per year, for approximately $237 million in cash, plus certain working capital adjustments. The company said it was the successful bidder on three ethanol plants for sale conducted under the provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Upon completion of the acquisitions, Green Plains will own and operate 17 dry mill ethanol facilities with combined production capacity of nearly 1.5...

Should Ethanol Subsidies be Renewed?

Jeff Coombe The Ethanol industry has only responded tepidly to the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit in the past, so why should it be renewed? The U.S. ethanol industry is nearing a major deadline. The industry's primary subsidy mechanism, the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), is set to expire on December 31, 2010. Federal ethanol subsidies were worth roughly $5 billion in 2009, a figure large enough to create vigorous debate over their renewal. Some call the credits a boondoggle, others a vitally important lifeline for an industry still in its formative years. ...

An Interesting Way To Play Cellulosic Ethanol

Last Friday (Feb. 2), the Globe & Mail's business section (the G&M is Canada's top national newspaper) ran an interesting piece by a senior business writer on cellulosic ethanol. I wish there was a way to view this article for free, but, unfortunately, the G&M charges for access to certain of its articles, and this is one of them. The gist of the argument is as follows: (a) forget corn-based ethanol, the future lies with cellulosic (yyaawwnn...); (b) deep down inside, Bush knows this; (c) to make cellulosic ethanol competitive, you need super-enzymes that speed up the process...
cattle feeding

More Than Ethanol at Green Plains

Last week ethanol producer Green Plains (GPRE:  Nasdaq) reported financial results for the quarter ending June 2018.   As expected the company reported a net loss, but actual results were far better than expected.  The news gave traders a reason to celebrate with bids that led to a gap higher at the opening on the first day of trading following the announcement.  Cooler heads came into the market as the day wore on and the stock closed below the open on heavy volume. Nonetheless, the stock finished the week higher and appears prepared to challenge lines of volume-related price resistance in the trading sessions ahead.    There may...

Current Structure of the US Ethanol Industry “Problematic”, Says the IMF

The International Monetary Fund released its Spring 2007 World Economic Forecast today. Fuel Vs. Food There is a short sub-section in Appendix 1.1 ("Recent Developments in Commodity Markets") that I thought might be worth sharing with you. If you download the PDF version of the report and scroll down to page 44, you will find the said sub-section under the heading "Food and Biofuels". In it, the IMF notes that food prices (as measured by its own food price index) rose by 10% in 2006, driven partly by a poor wheat crop in certain countries but...

California’s Other Ethanol Producers

by Debra Fiakas CFA In the last two posts Pacific Ethanol (PEIX:  Nasdaq) and Aemetis, Inc. (AMTX:  OTC/BB) got all the attention.  Both companies have crafted their facilities to accept lower-cost sorghum as an alternative feedstock, opening up the door to lower carbon intensity measures for their ethanol output.  There are other ethanol producers in the state, which we believe are still relying on corn as feedstock.  Which companies will remain in operation in California is not yet clear.  Standards sets by California Air Resources Board (CARB) for the carbon intensity of alternative fuels favors local producers and...
for and against oil refinery bailouts

Billionaire Bailouts v. Biofuels

Trump in a pickle: support his beleaguered EPA Administrator over oil refinery bailouts, or rally his Midwestern farm-state base? In Washington, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa tweeted: “I’ve supported Pruitt but if he pushes changes to RFS that permanently cut ethanol by billions of gallons he will have broken Trump promise & he should step down & let someone else do the job of implementing Trump agenda if he refuses.” Grassley explicitly called on Pruitt to back a key campaign pledge from 2016 that helped unlock farm state support and propel Trump into the White House. 1/19/16 Trump at IA Renewable fuels summit: EPA...

Why Have Ceres’ Sorghum Plans Soured?

Jim Lane Sorghum Bicolor photo by Matt Lavin As Ceres points towards minimal plantings of its sweet sorghum hybrids in its key market of Brazil for next year, investors ask two questions. Will sweet sorghum realize its vast potential, and when? Just when many observers hoped that Ceres, Inc. (CERE) would dramatically expand hectares planted with its Blade hybrid sweet sorghum, the 2014 planting outlook was released last week and the total hectares crashed from 3000 in 2013 to 1000 in 2014. It’s a far cry...

They’ll Put the Cellulose in Cellulosic Ethanol

One of the keys to staying ahead of the game in money management is lateral thinking.  I start with the trend, and then try to think of industries or companies that might benefit, but are not on everyone else's radar.  With Peak Oil-driven demand for biofuels, regular readers know that I consider the people who produce the feedstock (farmers, and industries whose waste can fairly easily be converted into biofuel) to be the most certain winners.  One direction this chain of logic has taken me is to forestry companies.  I'm far from a forestry analyst, so I decided to...