Letter to the Editor: Ethanol provides clean fuel option

Source: By By Jim Stark, Omaha World Herald • Posted: Friday, June 22, 2018

Economics professor Carlisle Ford Runge’s June 14 commentary on ethanol was based on myths and fear-mongering.

The renewable fuel standard is the backbone of the U.S. farm economy. As an example, the 25 ethanol plants in Nebraska produce 2 billion gallons of fuel and 6 million tons of distillers grains or livestock feed. These production facilities purchase approximately 700 million bushels of corn currently valued at $2.7 billion annually.

That 6 million tons of livestock feed is equal to 215 million bushels of corn. Net corn usage amounts to less than 500 million bushels or about 27 percent of the corn grown in Nebraska. There are over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in Nebraska related to the production, storage and transportation of ethanol. The ethanol industry in Nebraska adds $5 billion to the state’s gross domestic product each year.

E15 is not a mandated fuel. The EPA granted a waiver for E15 to be used in 2001 and newer model cars and light trucks. Today over 90 percent of the new cars and trucks sold in the United States clearly state E15 is an approved fuel in the owner’s manual.

E15 is not banned in the summertime because it evaporates in the gas tank. E15 is restricted in certain markets during the summer for use in flex fuel cars and trucks only. This is due to an antiquated rule in the Clean Air Act that “big oil” uses to keep consumers buying more gasoline made from oil imported from countries like Libya and Venezuela.

Ethanol does not increase smog. Ethanol reduces tail pipe emissions by 40 percent when compared to a straight petroleum-based fuel. Ethanol is alcohol and burns clean.

This statement appears on the American Lung Association’s website: “The American Lung Association supports the increased use of biofuels for transportation if such fuels are produced from sources, and using methods, which result in a significant net reduction in lifecycle emissions of air pollutants including carbon dioxide compared to petroleum fuels.”

Food prices are down from their highs of 2008. Want to know why? Transportation costs account for a significant portion of food costs and when oil prices are high so is the cost of delivery. The value of corn in an 18-ounce box of corn flakes is five cents. But it costs $677 to get a truckload of corn flakes to the store.

Another big driver of food cost is food waste. In the United States alone, USDA’s Economic Research Service puts food loss at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 at approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion in value. Think how much lower food prices would be if we weren’t so wasteful.

Ethanol is the single most effective policy tool we have to decarbonize our transportation fuels. It is protecting our planet, cleaning the air and saving consumers money.

Ethanol is rated 113 octane per gallon and is the highest blending octane of available additives, which keeps engines running cooler and cleaner, while improving engine performance. There has never been one automotive engine recall and failure as a result of ethanol in our fuel.

Every truckload of clean-burning ethanol displaces more than 60 barrels of imported oil. Since the widespread introduction of ethanol in our fuel supply, we’ve cut our imports in half.

Jim Stark is vice president of investor and media relations for Green Plains Inc., an Omaha-based ethanol producer.