Local View: Bright future for ethanol

Source: By Scott McPheeters, Lincoln Journal Star • Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Ethanol is a viable solution, readily available to tackle our nation’s greenhouse gas reduction goals now and in the future. It’s reduced more greenhouse gasses than any other fuel, says the California Air Resources Board. This coming from a state that has higher standards for low-carbon fuel than any other and imports about half of Nebraska’s ethanol.

California also recently partnered with several Midwest corn boards that will provide $1.25 million to support E85 infrastructure expansion.

Ethanol infrastructure is already in place (unlike electric), and it doesn’t cost the American taxpayer anything. In fact, when you choose ethanol at the pump, you’re going to save money. Multiple studies have proven that ethanol helps save lives, sustains rural economies, and is safe and efficient to use.

Also worth mentioning, ethanol helps feed and fuel the world by recycling corn leftovers into co-products including dried distillers grains and corn oils.

So why do we keep hearing about electric vehicles and why does Alan Guebert think the future of biofuels is stagnant? (“Ethanol’s future is running out of gas,” (Sept. 5). I don’t know, and I completely disagree.

The ethanol industry has more opportunity than ever before. It’s evolving and diversifying through advanced biofuels, starch, chemicals and proteins. Utilization of new yeasts and enzymes consistently make ethanol production more efficient and economical. As an ethanol representative on local production, state development and national promotion boards, I hear conversations on new technologies and processes for the industry, and before I know it, I’m seeing it in motion. Things are moving quickly.

Nebraska is the No. 2 producer of ethanol, and we are proud of that fact and the product. It helps people! It reduces risk of cancer, heart disease and respiratory issues.

What we don’t understand is who doesn’t want to support that? We want to get more ethanol into the market to replace the gasoline we are already using, which, to be very frank, is killing us.

Just this year, the transportation industry moved into the No. 1 cause of pollution. We’ve been using ethanol for four decades but clearly not enough. If the U.S. transitioned from E10 to E15, GHGs would decrease by 17.62 million tons per year (roughly 3.85 million vehicles). Imagine the impact we could make if higher ethanol blends were widely available, and its use highly encouraged.

Ethanol will be a competitor in the net-zero market and is the only low-carbon fuel on the market that fights climate change throughout its entire lifecycle. It is important to note that EVs are only considered zero emission at the tailpipe.

We need environmentalists to consider the entire lifecycle comparing EVs and ethanol. If they did, ethanol would already outperform. Thanks to innovation, technology and more sustainable practices, farmers and producers are significantly cutting the carbon intensity of ethanol – making Midwest plant-based ethanol more desirable around the world. As we continue to achieve more of our low carbon goals, blending requirements might not matter as biofuels become an even more superior low-carbon solution.

Since the Biden administration began highlighting its goals of reducing carbon emissions significantly, the ethanol industry has been hard at work reminding them that that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for years. Ethanol is the only non-toxic, homegrown option we have. Have policymakers not considered the environmental and political havoc on our planet to mine precious minerals to produce EV batteries? The U.S. cannot become dependent on China to power our transportation sector.

From one transportation industry to another, we know the regulatory work, costs, time and struggles that come with building and funding national infrastructure. We’ve been doing this for more than 40 years! We also know the uphill climb of automobile supply and demand. EVs are expensive to manufacture, purchase and charge. They are economically out-of-reach for many drivers.

It will take 20-plus years of making 100% EVs to transition the entire U.S. auto fleet. And we must rely on the government for incentives and infrastructure to make driving EVs just as affordable and convenient as conventional autos. We also know green energy that displaces a use for petroleum has powerful competitors who can afford to manipulate legislation, messaging and the market.

What we do need are ag-based biofuel supporters who see opportunity when change comes. Change is inevitable. In what ways can we thrive? Care to take a crack at that one?

Scott McPheeters farms near Gothenburg and serves as the vice chair of the Nebraska Ethanol Board and on the KAAPA Ethanol Board.