POET Launches Ethanol Expansion, Lawmakers Continue RFS Push Against EPA

Source: By Todd Neeley, DTN/Progressive Farmer • Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2018

POET Biorefining in Marion, Ohio, now has an ethanol production capacity of 150 million gallons, after the company celebrated an 80-million-gallon expansion of the plant on Wednesday that included area farmers, community members and state officials.

According to a news release from POET, the plant can produce about 360,000 tons of distillers grains annually. “New production from this facility adds 26 million bushels of annual corn demand for area farmers at a time when agriculture faces serious economic challenges,” the company said in the release. “The $120 million project also added 225 temporary jobs throughout the course of its construction.”

POET President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Lautt said in a statement that Marion has been a good location for the company.

“Marion and the entire state of Ohio have been fantastic partners throughout the growth of POET and the entire biofuel industry,” Lautt said. “This expansion will dramatically expand local farmers’ markets for grain and provide about 20 new jobs for the area.”

The expansion comes at a time when farmers across the country are facing lower commodity prices, dramatic reductions in farm income in the past five years, and trade tensions with China.

POET Chief Executive Officer Jeff Broin said in the news release the industry continues to need and to push for year-round sales of E15.We can reinvigorate the rural economy with more investments like this when Americans finally get the freedom to buy E15 year-round,” Broin said. “Nationwide adoption of E15 will add 2 billion bushels of corn demand per year, bringing down worldwide surpluses and increasing commodity prices for farmers here at home. America needs more cleaner-burning homegrown fuels, and farm families in communities like Marion desperately need the added value that year-round E15 can deliver.”

PUSH CONTINUES ON RFSIn interview with DTN on Tuesday, Omaha-based Green Plains Inc. Chief Executive Officer Todd Becker, said he believes if President Donald Trump’s administration approves E15 the industry would respond quickly to move to full market availability.”We believe our research shows about 10,000 stations would make the switch to E15 today,” Becker said. “It will move a lot faster than everyone gives it credit for.”

On Tuesday, a group of more than 20 lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives led by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., asked EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a letter to approve E15.

They also told Wheeler the Renewable Fuel Standard promotes economic development and energy security, and requested the proposed 2019 volumes boost biomass-based biodiesel from the proposed 2.43 billion gallons to 2.8 billion gallons to match what the industry can produce.

In addition, the lawmakers urged Wheeler to “put an end” to “secret” small refinery waivers. EPA approved 48 waivers in 2016 and 2017, totaling 2.25 billion gallons.

“The 2019 RVO targets and the success of the RFS will continue to be undermined if the EPA does not account for further waivers,” they write.

“Instead of advancing policies that would hurt farmers and prevent market growth of ethanol, we encourage you to also consider reducing regulations, like those that prohibit the year-round sale of E15.”