E15 could be a significant boost to Nebraska’s economy

Source: By Robert Pore, Grand Island Independent • Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2019

In December, President Trump announced that his administration will move forward with year-round sales of ethanol blends of up to 15 percent.

The announcement was met with enthusiasm in Nebraska. There are 25 ethanol plants in Nebraska. Those plants produce 2.5 billion gallons of ethanol annually. Nebraska is second in the nation behind Iowa in ethanol production. Increasing the amount of ethanol allowed to be blended in regular gasoline could give an economic boost to state corn farmers.

Currently, due to government regulations, E15 can be sold between September 16 through May 31 for vehicles 2001 and newer. Trump’s announcement would simplify this regulation and allow for year-round usage for all vehicles 2001 and newer, which comprise nearly 90 percent of the vehicles on the road today, according to the Nebraska Corn Board. E15 typically saves motorists three to 10 cents per gallon at the pump, and is a natural octane booster.

Last month, Bosselman’s Pump and Pantry celebrated the opening of two of its stations providing E15 to its customers, which they have labeled Super 88 blend. Bosselman has been a leader in providing its customers the choice of blended ethanol fuels. The two new BossFuel pumps offer three different blends of ethanol (E10, E15, and E85), but also regular unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel.

Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley was in Grand Island to celebrate the new BossFuel pumps.

“Ethanol is such a critically important product that we produce in this state,” Foley said.

Each year, the state ethanol industry uses more than 700 million bushels of corn grown by Nebraska farmers. Ethanol provides a home-grown value-added product that helps provide price support for the state’s corn industry. Last year, Nebraska farmers harvested an estimated 1.8 billion bushels of corn.

Increasing the amount of ethanol blended into regular gasoline not only lowers prices for consumers, but also increases the amount of corn used in the production of ethanol.

Last year, the amount of ethanol-blended fuel consumption in Nebraska was 796 million gallons. At the pump, the difference between regular gasoline and E10 averages about 30 cents per gallon. E15 is estimated to make the cost at the pump for consumers five cents cheaper per gallon.

Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, said Trump decision to allow the sale of E15 was a “huge” decision that will benefit not only the agricultural sector but the nation as a whole.

He said it sent a positive message to the American public that the Trump administration is supportive of homegrown biofuels.

“Having that position and being outspoken on that issue is huge for us,” Brunkhorst said.

What concerns Brunkhorst, though, is that the administration sets up a rulemaking process and a final rule completed before June 1.

“That time frame gets tight, especially with a government shutdown that we are in now and not a lot of progress being made. It is very concerning for us.”

Brunkhorst spoke in early January as Trump had shut down the federal government on the issue of funding for the U.S. border wall with its neighbor in Mexico.

But, when looking at the opportunities that selling more ethanol in the form of E15, he said it is a “huge opportunity.”

“When we look at E15 maybe being the next step into the mid-level blend, being able to accomplish this and check that box, we move to that next step of increasing that usage of ethanol types of blends,” Brunkhorst said. “That gives consumers greater choices and working with the automobile industry when looking at the next generation of engines that can use these higher blends of ethanol.”

While ethanol blended with regular fuel has been extensively tested by the government’s Environmental Protection Agency, corn farmers had always had to battle misinformation about it, starting with E10 when it was first introduced on the market.

Brunkhorst said consumers appreciate the fuel savings that blended ethanol fuels bring them — E15 could save consumers as much as 40 cents per gallon compared to gasoline without the ethanol.

Also, higher blended levels of ethanol in fuels promote cleaner air emissions from vehicles.

“Cleaner air and a cleaner environment is something that a lot of people are concerned about,” Brunkhorst said.

Each year, Nebraska farmers continually harvest larger corn crops on sometimes fewer acres. While trade is a useful way to sell the surplus harvest, using corn ethanol has provided a market for farmers who would experience even lower corn prices without it.

Brunkhorst said ethanol has also proven to be a valuable export commodity, along with the sale of dry distiller’s grain that is used for animal feed both domestically and in international markets.

He said the Corn Board is now working with fueling stations and gasoline suppliers to gather more information about how to get more stations, such as Pump and Pantry, to sell more of the higher ethanol blends. Brunkhorst said once they get a better understand of station’s needs, the corn board could allocate various financial assistance for infrastructure needs to sell the higher blends.

“Anytime we can raise the plateau of demand of ethanol that is a huge boost,” he said.