Get to Know Our Accelerate Conference Speakers

The American Coalition for Ethanol's 2021 Conference features speakers from all corners of the ethanol industry. Visit this page to get to know the experts generously sharing their insights on the industry.

Calculating Your Carbon Intensity | From Net-Zero to Net-Negative Carbon: Accelerating Ethanol's Advantage

From 1974 to 2014 Ron was the owner/operator of RS, Inc., a grain production enterprise near Chester, South Dakota.  Ron graduated from Chester High School in 1970 and from South Dakota State University in 1974 with a BS degree in Agronomy/Soil Science.  Mr. Alverson was a founding member (1987) and past president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, and past Board member of the National Corn Growers Association. Ron was also a founder and is a current Board Member of Lake Area Corn Processors LLC (Dakota Ethanol), a 60 million gallon per year ethanol production plant at Wentworth, S.D., where he works on low carbon ethanol fuel pathways.   He is a past President of the American Coalition for Ethanol’s Board of Directors.  Past honors included the South Dakota “Master Farmer” award, the South Dakota State University “Eminent Farmer” award, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association “Excellence in Agriculture” award, and the 2018 Renewable Fuels Association “Industry” award.

Destination Biocampus

Timothy is the General Manager of Growth Ventures for Fluid Quip Technologies; a leading engineering and technology provider to the bio-based industry.  At FQT, Tim leads all activities related to the development and deployment of its disruptive, low carbon intensity clean sugar technology™.  As part of this he works across broad industries including synthetic biology, bio-based materials and intermediates, food ingredients, and consumer packaged goods with the critical goal of enabling existing and new technologies to have sustainably positioned products and resilient business models.

Prior to Fluid Quip, Timothy spent 17 years at Cargill Inc. in various operations, business management, strategy, and corporate development roles focused on specialty, value-added food ingredients.  He has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota – Duluth. 

Balancing Act: Risk Management, Capital Investment Planning, and Profitability

Mike Blackford is a risk management consultant with nearly three and half decades of experience at StoneX Group Inc.  Working alongside renewable fuels team, Mike specializes in ethanol markets and margin management; reporting to a client base of nearly twenty ethanol producers.   Combining fundamental knowledge of the ethanol industry along with a conservative sound risk management approach has allowed Mike to excel in this space.  An early riser, Mike enjoys analyzing the economics of commodities and reporting market intelligence to clients and colleagues on a regular basis. Mike is inspired daily by his wife and their two daughters. In his free time, Mike loves to be outdoors.  Whether it be farming, golfing, hunting, hiking or simply enjoying nature.  Mike is a 1987 graduate from Northwest Missouri State University.

Insights on Carbon: Navigating Verification and Measuring Project Value

Kari Buttenhoff is a CPA and Partner of Christianson, PLLP, a full-service public accounting firm serving the renewable fuel industry for nearly three decades. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from St. Cloud State University and began with Christianson right out of college. Her first project with the firm was to research the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and she has been working with the firm in developing the RFS and various services that have been added in relation to renewable fuels compliance programs since 2007. She remains active in traditional accounting, specializing in audits of renewable fuel facilities. She currently manages Christianson’s Compliance Department, with special expertise in RIN consulting and attestation compliance, the California Low Carbon Fuels Standard, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Regulation and many other renewable fuel carbon and compliance programs.

Status of Clean Fuels Policies

John O. Christianson is a certified public accountant and director of Christianson PLLP. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with an accounting degree, John’s farming background led him to perceive the need for a full-service accounting and consulting firm with specialized expertise in agribusiness.  Under his guidance, John has grown the Christianson companies into a nationally recognized group with over thirty five years of experience in agricultural manufacturing, grain processing and renewable fuels.

In today’s robust and rapidly evolving rural economy, John is committed to providing cutting-edge financial analysis and growth consulting to ensure the continued health of agriculture and industry in rural America.

Special Address to the General Session

Representative Angie Craig represents Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District. She is fighting for working families - and for a Minnesota where every member of every family gets a fair shot. That means a future with lower health care costs and opportunities for career skills and technical training for 21st century jobs. She’ll work with anybody - and take on the Washington establishment - to get things done for her constituents.

In Congress, Rep. Craig is fighting to make sure career skills and technical education is an option for every young person; to lower the cost of healthcare and to work toward a solution that expands health care to many more Americans; for infrastructure investments that benefit our communities – big and small; and for policies that reward people for their hard work – especially family farmers and small business owners. She plans to pursue these priorities through her appointments on the House Committees on Agriculture, Energy and Commerce and Small Business.

Efficient Operational Strategies for Feed Diversification and Lower Carbon Intensity Score for Ethanol Biorefineries

Matt Durler is the Vice President of Feed Development for ICM. In his role, he has led the development of value-added feed products, focusing on tailoring solutions that create value for both ethanol biorefineries and animal feeders. He is also responsible for the commercialization strategy of feed products created with ICM technologies.

Matt’s roots are in production agriculture, and he continues to be actively involved in the family farm and cattle ranch near Dodge City, Kansas. Prior to joining ICM, he spent 11 years at Conestoga Energy holding various roles from Plant Manager to Vice President of Marketing. Matt is a graduate of Washburn University, where he studied finance, economics and marketing. He earned his bachelor's degree and MBA while playing college football.

Balancing Efficiency and Economics Through Optimization and Process Improvement

Jenny Forbes is the Vice President of Products & Services for Phibro Ethanol.  Jenny has many years of experience in the ethanol industry and is devoted to finding solutions to improve operational performance, including a passion for improving fermentation yield, troubleshooting process upsets, and developing training initiatives.  Jenny obtained a B.S. in Animal Science with a specialization in research science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Prior to joining the ethanol industry, Jenny was part of a pharmaceutical R&D group and also worked on pharmaceutical applications in the field with livestock producers.

Calculating Your Carbon Intensity

Nick Fosheim is the Director of Member & Industry Relations for the American Coalition for Ethanol. In his role at ACE, Nick is focused on maximizing engagement opportunities for ACE members and demonstrating results through the ACE Accelerate Initiative. He is also responsible for developing ways to promote the organization’s work throughout the industry. After working nearly ten years in economic & community development, Nick has an appreciation for the positive impact that producers and partners in the ethanol industry have in their local communities.

Planning for the Future: Boards, Employees, Products

Working with forward-thinking businesses throughout the United States, Donna identifies opportunities to grow businesses and meet goals whether through strategic planning and advice, accounting and tax-consulting, or business acquisition.

She leads K·Coe Isom’s biofuels practice area, specializing in succession planning, multi-state taxation, inventory management, finance, and traditional tax, audit, and accounting services. Donna connects with business owners through her vast understanding of these unique industries, including impacts like commodity pricing and fluctuating economic challenges.

To Donna, results matter. Growing up on a dairy farm, she learned that getting the job done—no matter day or night—was paramount. This inspires her to bring creative ideas to the table, recommending progressive solutions to difficult problems in the constantly changing industries she serves.

Expanding Ethanol Use Around the World

Brian D. Healy serves as the Director of Global Ethanol Market Development for the U.S. Grains Council, a non-profit organization that operates globally to promote the use of U.S. barley, corn, sorghum and related products including ethanol. In this capacity, Healy oversees development and execution of the Council’s global ethanol program including strategy development, public affairs, and strategic partnerships.

Prior to the Council, Healy worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) as an agricultural economist. In this position, he conducted global economic and trade policy analyses on strategic issues impacting U.S. and global agricultural trade. Healy also served as the president of a professional advisory committee at FAS, a role in which he set the strategic direction and lead a team of officers in creating and improving access to professional development activities and resources for 300 professionals.

Healy holds a master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics from the University of California, Davis and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and resource economics from the University of Maryland.

Developing a Carbon Strategy – Now

Bernie Hoffman leads business development efforts for P&E Solutions . P&E Solutions is the EPC arm of Piping and Equipment, a 75 year old contracting and engineering firm. With extensive biofuels, refining and power industry experience, P&E is focused on co-locating combined heat and power solutions with existing ethanol plants to reduce energy costs and lower carbon intensity. Bernie is an experienced senior executive with an extensive track record working for both domestic and international organizations. In his various roles, Bernie has had a key role in developing and/or running numerous ethanol plants. He began his biofuels industry work 20 years ago with the Broin Companies (now Poet). He spent several years at ICM and was Chief Operating Officer of Babcock and Brown Biofuels. Bernie has a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Kansas. Bernie is also a graduate of the Southwest Graduate School of Banking at SMU where he served on the Faculty Advisory Board. Bernie has served on small business and nonprofit boards and on several biofuels plant boards.

Destination Biocampus

Neal Jakel, Managing Director for Fluid Quip Technology, joined the leadership team in 2014 where he has led the overall company’s short and long-term growth strategy and new technology development directives. Neal currently leads the company’s overall operations, that helps ensure its leadership position and advancements by bringing viable, commercially proven technologies that benefit the biofuels and biochem markets. Prior to joining FQT, Neal was the General Manager for Illinois River Energy (IRE) where he led the directed efforts involved with IRE’s ethanol operations and business growth strategies. Here Neal led the company’s expansion efforts and eventual sale of the business to CHS in 2014. Under Neal’s leadership, IRE operations were within the 95% of all ethanol plant performances. Before joining the IRE team, Neal led the dry fractionation business development efforts for Delta-T Corp. Prior to this he was with Cargill and one of its joint ventures for more than 15 years, where he lead a variety of operational role and project management positions. Neal holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin School of Business, a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois, is a member of the Technical Advisory Committee for the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center. Neal holds numerous issued and pending patents on the design and production of value-added processes and products within the grain processing industries.

Accelerate: Updates from ACE Leadership | From Net-Zero to Net-Negative Carbon: Accelerating Ethanol's Advantage

Brian Jennings is the fourth generation to help raise cattle and crops on land his family homesteaded in South Dakota in 1907. Before becoming the top executive at the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) in 2004, Brian served as an advisor to a U.S. Senator and worked for a South Dakota farm organization – jobs which enabled him to help enact legislation to support farmers, ranchers, and renewable fuels from inside and outside the Beltway. Today Jennings works with ACE members, who represent the heart and soul of the U.S. ethanol industry, to feature the personal stories and authentic people who are providing clean fuel and valuable food to a growing world.

Balancing Act: Risk Management, Capital Investment Planning, and Profitability

Jason has been lending in the food and agribusiness space for nearly 20 years. At Compeer Financial he serves as the primary expert in the renewable fuels sector, mainly focusing on the middle to upper market food and agribusiness space. 

In his free time, Jason enjoys golfing, hunting, spending time with family, and coaching youth basketball.

Accelerating Demand for Ethanol

Dr. BJ Johnson is CEO and co-founder of ClearFlame Engine Technologies, a start-up company dedicated to developing clean engine technology for heavy-duty truck, off-highway, and industrial applications.

Together with co-founder Dr. Julie Blumreiter, BJ founded ClearFlame to develop solutions that increase the performance of and reduce emissions from internal combustion engines using decarbonized fuel, such as ethanol. BJ was the lead inventor on a patent filed by Stanford University for this work, which now forms the center of ClearFlame’s intellectual property.

BJ’s passion and leadership for this work have helped him to secure investors and strategic partners, including the support of multiple industry manufacturers, agencies like the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and world-class accelerators like StartX, I-Corps, Ameren Accelerator, and WERCBench Labs.

In 2021, BJ was named one of the Grist 50—an annual list of emerging leaders from across the US working on fresh, real-world solutions to our world’s biggest challenges—and competed in TechCrunch Startup Battlefield and SXSW Pitch. BJ earned his BS, MS, and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.

Leading in an Era of Exponential Change

Shaunna Jones, ACC, HR Success Strategist for K·Coe’s outsourced HR services, has more than 15 years of experience in the development and coaching of employees.

Her ability to manage human resource experiences and facilitate employee development programs, with an emphasis on developing emerging leaders, is Shaunna’s specialty.  With the ultimate goal of developing strong talent, securing long-term employee satisfaction and retention, and cultivating leaders, Shaunna provides keen insight for HR departments, and customizes effective solutions to manage employee relations, performance plans, and leadership programs.

As a Lean Six-Sigma Green Belt, Shaunna has an extensive background in operations and process improvement, coupled with an innate ability to coach employees to maximize their skills and talents. Her unique combination of people- and process-improvement skills allows her to help companies diagnose the root causes of barriers to success, and then coach organizations on problem-solving methods to alleviate frustrations, decrease turnover, and increase employee engagement and satisfaction.

Status of Clean Fuel Policies

Brendan joined the Great Plains Institute in 2004 and is the Vice President overseeing transportation and fuels programs. He has seventeen years of experience leading initiatives to promote deployment of low carbon transportation and fuel technology. He works across subject areas, including bioenergy, low-carbon fuels, transportation, carbon management, carbon removal, and energy infrastructure. Brendan is an experienced facilitator, energy researcher, policy analyst, project manager, communicator, and advocate. He is lead facilitator for a variety of initiatives, including the Midwestern Clean Fuels Policy Initiative, and the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota. He also is part of a team collaborating with Argonne National Laboratories on life cycle accounting methodology for biofuels and supports initiatives to commercialize lower carbon intensity advanced and conventional biofuels. He collaborates with the carbon management team at GPI and leads initiatives with the biofuels industry and agriculture to lower emissions through carbon capture and agricultural soil carbon and fertilizer management.

Brendan has an M.S. in science, technology, and environmental policy from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, and an undergraduate degree in biology from Carleton College in Northfield, MN. Brendan lives in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and two daughters.

Developing a Carbon Strategy – Now

Paul is the VP of Business Development for Whitefox Technologies since 2016, and has played various roles in the ethanol industry since 2003.  Paul has an extensive background in new technology commercialization for grain and cellulosic processes and related product markets, with a focus on improving efficiencies and profitability, and reducing GHG and other emissions.

Developing a Carbon Strategy – Now

James is President of Bioleap, Inc. and specializes in the areas of thermodynamics and heat integration.  He is an innovator, inventor, and commercializer whose process designs are simple to operate, require minimal maintenance and are highly reliable.   During his 13 years in the biofuels industry, James has championed the installation of many of his patented process energy saving innovations at ethanol plants across the country, saving Bioleap customers trillions of BTUs every single year.  James earned a Master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University and has 13 patents granted and pending. 

Accelerate: Updates from ACE Leadership | Credit Makers and Credit Takers

Ron Lamberty is Senior Vice President for the American Coalition for Ethanol. Ron spent the first 20 years of his career in the convenience store and petroleum wholesale distributing business, and has a long history as a marketer and supporter of ethanol. Lamberty provides logistical and marketing expertise to petroleum marketers who want to begin selling ethanol-enriched gasoline, as well as those who already sell ethanol and are trying to find a way to improve sales of the product. Ron was instrumental in providing a fueling station for the first E85 vehicles in South Dakota, and later opened the first retail E85 fueling site in the nation. He worked closely with ACE to establish several others during his years working in the petroleum business. He was also instrumental in one of the nation’s first tests of soy diesel, providing fuel for the Sioux Falls Transit buses in 1993. Ron joined ACE as Market Development Director in September of 2000, and was named Vice President in November of 2003 and Senior Vice President in June of 2011.

Status of Clean Fuels Policy

Jonathon has over 15 years’ experience in conservation policy, having served as principal counsel to Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and as professional staff on the Senate Agriculture Committee under the leadership of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).  Jonathon developed agricultural, energy, water resource, rural development and forestry legislation on behalf of the Leader, and was the principal negotiator of such legislation for the Democratic Caucus.  Jonathon developed successful bipartisan renewable energy legislation during his time on Capitol Hill, and now works extensively with agricultural producers and cooperatives to develop renewable fuel and other environmental markets for agricultural commodities.  Jonathon holds a J.D. from Vermont Law School.  Jonathon grew up on his family’s dairy farm near Watertown, South Dakota.

Insights on Carbon: Navigating Verification and Measuring Project Value

Connie Lindstrom provides customized data analysis and reports, working with participants in the Biofuels Benchmarking program at Christianson Benchmarking, LLC, for the past nine years. With over twenty years' experience as a professional technical writer and business analyst, Connie helps benchmarking clients drill into their data to identify precise areas of opportunity for growth. Connie has a Master's of Business Administration from the University of North Dakota, with a concentration in government and business

Cutting Through the Noise with Compelling Communication Strategies

Katie has served as ACE’s Communications Director since 2017 and helps set and guide communication strategy for the organization. She assists in the development, implementation and evaluation of ACE communication and marketing strategies, including the generation of online content. Katie manages the development, distribution and maintenance of all print and electronic collateral media, including press releases, social media, member emails, ACE's magazine Ethanol Today, and more. Before joining ACE, she worked for three years as a staff writer and editor at BBI International for its Biomass Magazine, Pellet Mill Magazine and Ethanol Producer Magazine publications.

EVs, Low Carbon Fuels, and a Technology-Neutral Playing Field

Dr. Mueller leads the Bioenergy and Sustainable Landscapes Research Group at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Research activities focus on life cycle emissions analyses of fuel pathways including greenhouse gas emissions assessments from land use change related to biofuels and bioenergy production, quantification of carbon emissions and sequestration effects from production agriculture, and comparative emissions assessments between biofuel and electric vehicle use. Steffen has also performed numerous feasibility studies and technology evaluations in the biofuels and bio-products area. Recently, Steffen has been serving as a technical expert to the US Grains Council on the sustainability of US produced biofuels for export markets and presented his research in Japan, Korea, China, India, Columbia, and Mexico. Dr. Mueller has published over 20 peer reviewed papers on life cycle analysis and he is a co-author of the land use change interface of the Argonne National Laboratory GREET model. Steffen served on the Expert Working Group for the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard development in 2010 and he presented his biofuels research results to the White House Council of Economic Advisors in 2014.

Balancing Efficiency and Economics Through Optimization and Process Improvements

Tara Naman earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from York University in Toronto, Canada.  After joining CTE Global in 2016, she developed from a laboratory technician to her current role as Laboratory Manager of our Technology Center in St. Paul, MN. She facilitates flask and bioreactor fermentation trials to guide plant scale strategies and oversees process monitoring services to ensure plants achieve optimal performance.

Cutting Through the Noise with Compelling Communication Strategies

Sue Retka Schill, WriteOH, has followed the ethanol industry since the 1980s when she wrote about farmer efforts in her region to get small-scale ethanol plants going. For the past 15 years, she’s written about all aspects of the ethanol industry. She wrote for Ethanol Producer Magazine for a decade and since retiring from full time work, continues to write for industry magazines, including Ethanol Today along with several companies serving the industry.

Credit Makers and Credit Takers

Ryan Ruikka is the biofuels energy analyst for The ProExporter Network®. Ryan has built and publishes the PRX biomass-based diesel monthly report, along with updating and publishing the weekly and monthly ethanol reports. Previously for PRX, he researched big academic and government computer models used in forecasting the future state of the agricultural sector. Ryan studied at Boston University receiving a B.A. in Mathematics and a B.A./M.A. in Economics. Graduating in four years with all three degrees while playing varsity hockey for the Terriers he also won the prestigious department prize in economics. His freshman year culminated in an NCAA National Championship. Ryan served as assistant captain for the hockey team in his fifth year at Boston University while receiving a second M.A. degree in Financial Economics. Ryan played professional hockey in Europe and the US for five seasons before joining PRX full-time.

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