Push for more use of E-85 as ethanol industry faces obstacles

Source: by Brent Martin, Nebraska Radio Network • Posted: Monday, October 20, 2014

State and agriculture officials are pushing for the expansion of bio-fuel use in Nebraska even as the industry attempts to weather a couple of obstacles.

Oil prices have dropped, bringing the price of gas closer to the break-even point for ethanol profitability. More oil is being produced domestically as well, which hold prices down.

Nebraska Ethanol Board Executive Director Todd Sneller says the key for profitability in the ethanol industry is to sell higher blends such as E-85.

“We’ve got to continue to use the capacity that is in place. That’s an under-utilized capacity and that is forcing producers to export ethanol. That simply doesn’t make any sense from a public policy standpoint,” Sneller tells reporters during a conference all. “We ought to be sure that the federal government is providing a pathway through the renewable fuel standard to hold oil refineries’ feet to the fire and make sure that they meet the standards that was set by the Congress in 2007.”

As Sneller noted, the government also plays a big role in the ethanol industry. A change in the renewable fuel standard for the nation’s gasoline supply would have a huge impact on ethanol producers.

State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach says that even the uncertainty of whether the federal government will relax the renewable fuel standard has hurt. Ibach says those wishing to invest in

cellulosic ethanol production, the so-called second generation of ethanol production, are worried.

“A lot of those people who were thinking about investing in those plants for the next generation have pulled back those dollars and put those plans on hold, because they’re concerned that if the federal government doesn’t hold true on its word to starch ethanol producers that they can’t rely on them to continue to be there for them as they move into the next generation of ethanol production,” according to Ibach.

While corn is the leading crop used to make ethanol, cellulosic feed stocks, such as crop residue or wood residue, hold promise for ethanol production.

Nebraska has 86 E-85 gas pumps. More are coming on line. A new smart phone app will help Nebraskans located their nearest E-85 pump.