Leading the Way to Cleaner, More Affordable, American-Made Fuel

Source: By Pete Ricketts, Nebraska Governor • Posted: Tuesday, November 1, 2022

There’s no reason why the U.S. should be reliant on authoritarian regimes like Iran, Russia, and Venezuela to supply the fuel we need.  We have more than enough resources to restore our energy independence and bring fuel prices down.  In Nebraska, we’re doing our part to grow biofuels production right here in America’s Heartland.

Embracing ethanol offers several benefits to consumers and communities.

For starters, it saves drivers money at the pump.  At a time when American families are strapped for cash due to rising inflation, ethanol offers savings.  A study released on October 13, 2022, by ABF Economics estimated that “expanding E15 use to the nation’s entire motor gasoline supply” would save an average American household $168 per year.  Nationwide, it would reduce annual consumer spending on motor fuel by $20.6 billion.

Filling up with ethanol also leads to a cleaner environment.  According to the USDA, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent compared to gasoline.  Additional studies have shown that, when compared to E10, E15 further reduces emissions of particulate matter by 18%, carbon monoxide by 17%, and NOx by 3%.  This effect is even more pronounced when higher ethanol blends are considered.  Converting just 10 percent of the U.S. on-road fleet to E30 would result in a reduction of at least 34 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

And ethanol strengthens Nebraska agriculture by providing opportunities for our farm families.  Ethanol production generates demand for locally grown corn and increases the price farmers are paid for their harvest.  Roughly 40% of corn grown in Nebraska is used to make ethanol.  In July 2022, a joint study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and the Nebraska Ethanol Board reported that farmers in the immediate vicinity of ethanol facilities receive about 21.3 cents more per bushel for their corn.  It’s not just our farm families who benefit from ethanol.  The commodity also creates great-paying jobs in our rural communities.  The UNL/Nebraska Ethanol Board study estimated that the ethanol industry directly supports 1,460 jobs in Nebraska and indirectly supports over 3,000 more.  These jobs have annual average earnings of $70,800.

We’re conducting cutting-edge research to demonstrate the benefits of higher ethanol blends.  In June 2019, the State of Nebraska began a study on the use of locally sourced E30 biofuel in conventional vehicles.  State teammates outfitted 50 State-owned vehicles with onboard tracking systems to capture data on vehicle performance.  They monitored those vehicles for an entire year.  Data was submitted to engineers at UNL for analysis.  In February 2021, UNL’s Engineering Department released a report with its analysis of the data.  It clearly showed that E30, a blend of gasoline and 30% ethanol, is safe and efficient to use in regular vehicles and created no maintenance issues.

This October, we received EPA approval for an expanded study of the benefits of E30.  It will include up to 825 State vehicles.  Scaling up our use of E30 in the State’s vehicle fleet will underscore what we’ve already proven—E30 can be used in regular vehicles without reducing performance.  Under current EPA guidelines, only flex-fuel vehicles can use ethanol blends higher than E15.  With our second phase study, we’ll be in an even stronger position to advocate regulatory change to make E30 accessible to everyone.

We’ve also passed legislation to help our ethanol facilities make the most of new technologies.  Last year, I signed LB 650 into law to establish a legal and regulatory framework to store carbon dioxide underground in Nebraska.

Companies like Carbon America, Navigator CO2, Summit Carbon Solutions, and Tallgrass Energy have embarked on major projects that will allow Nebraska ethanol facilities to securely capture, transfer, and store carbon emissions.  Last month, for example, Carbon America announced a partnership with Bridgeport Ethanol to capture and store 95% of the plant’s annual emissions—roughly 175,000 tons of CO2 per year.  As Nebraska produces cleaner-burning fuels using carbon sequestration, we’re helping conventional vehicles achieve a carbon footprint similar to, if not cleaner than, the footprint from manufacturing and charging electric vehicles.

As we invest in research and use technologies to grow ethanol in Nebraska, we’re actively promoting the benefits of biofuels around the world.  In 2021, Nebraska exported over $375 million of ethanol.  That’s up more than 50% from 2014.  We’re looking to build on this growth.

In August, we highlighted the benefits of ethanol during our trade mission to the United Kingdom.  Last year, the UK upped its ethanol blending requirement for all gasoline from 5% to 10%, generating demand for biofuels.  Ethanol offers a great solution for consumers in the UK concerned about rising fuel costs and looking to reduce their carbon footprint.  We will continue to highlight the advantages of ethanol to Nebraska’s key international trade partners.

As the United States looks for cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy, renewable diesel also offers a great opportunity to use Nebraska products to create clean fuels.  Over the past few years, communities in Nebraska have successfully attracted processors producing or treating the feedstocks used to make renewable diesel.  In March 2021, Marathon started operations at a facility in Beatrice to pretreat 3,000 barrels per day of feedstock for its renewable diesel plant in North Dakota.  In September 2021, JST Global, a joint venture between Tyson Foods and Jacob Stern & Sons, began construction on a facility in Dakota City to pretreat animal fats for renewable diesel production.  Earlier this year, AGP (David City) and Norfolk Crush announced major investments to build soy crush facilities.  These plants use soybeans to produce the oils that renewable diesel plants use as feedstock.

This week, Heartwell Renewables (a partnership between Love’s and Cargill) is breaking ground on a renewable diesel production facility in Hastings.  The facility is scheduled to open in the summer of 2024 and will use rendered beef fat to produce 80 million gallons of renewable diesel each year.  It’s bringing 50 jobs to Hastings.

If you’d like to learn more about the steps we’re taking to promote biofuels in Nebraska and beyond, please email pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244.