Final BFC panel looks to the future

By Lisa Gibson | September 28, 2017

When Congress can’t agree, bills die, said Jamey Cline, business development director for Christianson PLLP, to his audience at the Biofuels Financial Conference Sept. 28 in Minneapolis. Cline presented about the immediate future of grant opportunities during the final panel of the event, themed “Biofuelture.”

“In certain cases, some grants and incentives might lower your cost and provide some comfort for your board of directors,” he said, specifically citing the Rural Energy for America Program, funded at $50 million annually through the Farm Bill. The program provides grants for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for rural small business and agricultural producers.

But the Farm Bill, along with many incentives and funding opportunities in the biofuels sector, is up in the air. Trump’s budget proposal in April included a 21 percent cut from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget. Another, more recent senate proposal suggested a 38 percent increase in farm bill funding, Cline cited. The disagreements prompt significant uncertainty.

“When’s the best time to ask for something? During an election,” Cline said.

Risk for future funding is significant, but Christianson’s experience helps it find funding for its clients, even when it’s difficult, Cline says.

He outlined main challenges in grant funding, starting with, “Don’t wait. We recommend starting well before construction starts.” He also pointed out that requirements differ from state to state and can change in the middle of grant cycles; state personnel often are unfamiliar with biofuels; grants for renewables are generally larger than grants in other sectors, which means they’re more heavily scrutinized; grants are competitive; and some are pro-rated.

Panelist John Fuher, senior director of government affairs for Growth Energy, discussed the immediate future of legislation, highlighting the RIN market, the Renewable Fuel Standard and Reid vapor pressure challenges for E15. “That has a dramatic impact,” Fuher said. “When you can’t sell a fuel for three months out of the year, that makes it difficult to build a market.”

Christianson’s Biofuels Financial Conference was held Sept. 27 and 28 at the Radisson Blu in Minneapolis. BBI International, which publishes Ethanol Producer Magazine, partnered with Christianson to hold the event.