IRFA summit addresses biofuels policies, synergies

By Ryan C. Christiansen | January 12, 2009
Web exclusive posted Feb. 2, 2009, at 10:39 a.m. CST

Approximately 600 people attended the third annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit on Jan. 27 in Des Moines, Iowa, according to Monte Shaw, executive director for the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, which hosted the summit.

The summit featured the U.S. premiere of a documentary film, a presentation by a renowned industry author, and discussions about implementing low carbon fuel standards, meeting the renewable fuels standard (RFS), and the synergies between biodiesel and ethanol production.

In prepared remarks for the summit, Shaw said the major long-term challenge facing the renewable fuels industry is whether the U.S. EPA will include indirect land use change measurement as part of its implementation of the renewable fuels standard mandated by the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007.

"Let me cut to the bottom line," Shaw told the summit. "Folks, if we don't win this regulatory battle, future growth in the production and use of renewable fuels will be snuffed out."

During an interview with Ethanol Producer Magazine after the summit, Shaw said the notion of indirect land use measurement is a "theoretical perfect'" that, "if you take any common sense and apply any scientific rigor, [the theory] collapses like a house of cards," he said. "They are untested and biased theories that people are trying to parade around as fact, and our message is a call to arms to get to our elected officials and, quite frankly, some of the unelected officialsthe EPAto say this is not ready for prime time. Don't cut the biofuels industry off at the knees."

The summit featured the documentary film "America's Fuel Choice," which suggests the U.S. should require all new manufactured vehicles to use non-petroleum fuels. The film is the first episode in the "Turning Oil into Salt" documentary series.

The summit also featured keynote speaker Robert Zubrin, the author of "Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil," which also suggests that all new cars sold in the U.S. should be flexible-fuel E85 capable.

The summit highlighted the increase in biofuels production and how greater use of E85, mid-level blends and B20 biodiesel blends are essential to ensure future demand.

"There's absolutely no reason why the EPA tomorrow couldn't approve E15 or at least E13," Shaw said, "and that would dramatically increase the market potential for ethanol right nowtoday. When plants are facing bankruptcy, some are idled, why wouldn't we do that? That is one of our highest-priority, near-term goals: to work with the EPA to get them to do that."

The final summit panel discussed how ethanol refineries might be used to produce algae for oil and ultimately biodiesel production; as well as how glycerin, a coproduct of biodiesel production, might be used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and livestock feed. The panel also discussed how corn oil extracted during the ethanol process can be used for biodiesel production.

In addition, the IRFA released a new study at the summit titled "Contribution of the Biofuels Industry to the Economy of Iowa" which details the impact the renewable fuels industry has on Iowa's economy, even during the recession.