SDFU delegates vote to take pro-E30 challenge

Source: By Mikkel Pates, Agweek • Posted: Monday, March 13, 2017

HURON, S.D. — The South Dakota Farmers Union celebrated its 100th annual meeting by taking another step forward in history by unanimously passing a resolution that dedicates its members to use a 30 percent ethanol blend in all of their engines.

Doug Sombke, president of the organization, said the step is in keeping with the organization’s century milestone.

More than 300 members attended the meeting that included some reminiscing over generations of accomplishments.

The resolution is what some call the “E30 Challenge.” Among other things, it defies Environmental Protection Agency policies, which makes it “illegal to put E30 in non flex-fuel vehicles,” Sombke said. Flex fuel vehicles were manufactured with modifications to handle blends up to 85 percent ethanol, or E85.

We’re trying to challenge the EPA, through the process of using the fuel in non flex-fuel vehicles, Sombke said. “The fact is, it’s my vehicle when I buy it. If it’s not making the air worse or creating a bigger hazard for the environment by burning it, what am I doing that’s illegal?”

E30 vehicles get comparable gas mileage to the common E10 fuel blend, and it replaces octane enhancers that release benzene, a known carcinogen. Sombke said the removal of lead from gasoline is meaningless if it is replaced by benzene. The E30 challenge is especially meaningful in the Watertown, S.D., area, because there are about 20 blender pumps to deliver the E30 blend to consumers.

The E30 capital

Attending the Farmers Union convention was Dale Christensen of Watertown, S.D., a retired farm management specialist with Wells Fargo banks, is on the 13-member board of Glacial Lakes Corn Processors. Glacial Lakes has 4,000 shareholders and manages two 100-million-gallon ethanol plants in limited liability companies in Watertown and Mina, S.D.

“We just have to get the (market) breakthrough,” Christensen said. “We’ve got to get people to buy a fuel that’s probably a better fuel — more economical, higher-octane, better for the environment. And we help ourselves. We reduce carbon in the air.”

About three months ago Christensen led an “E30 Challenge” in which the corn co-op board published advertisements in local papers saying they pledged to use E30 in their non flex-fuel vehicles.

“We’re trying to make Watertown, S.D., the E30 capital of the United States,” Christensen said. “We have to show people that we’re burning our own product, and why,” he said. “If we’re not willing to do it, who is going to do it for us?” The ethanol producers will meet with auto dealers and mechanics to see whether the community can become a test case for E30 use, Christensen said.

ICM Inc., an ethanol technology company based in Colwich, Kans., has indicated it will financially help with the E30 Challenge effort, Christensen said.

Dave VanderGriend, CEO of ICM, is president of Urban Air Initiative, a nonprofit organization created in 2012 to reduce harmful emissions from gasoline for public health, is promoting the project.

Ethanol safer

David Hallberg of Omaha, Neb., a former political aide to former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., attended the SDFU annual meeting. Hallberg is a technical adviser to the Urban Air Initiative and is director on the Siouxland Ethanol LLC of Sioux City, Neb. He has 40 years of experience in the industry and was instrumental in forming the Renewable Fuels Association, which led to Renewable Fuel Standard targets for consumption.

About 30 percent of gasoline contains highly toxic substances, which are needed for octane, Hallberg says. Ethanol is a better source of octane and doesn’t produce the benzene contaminants.

Among the champions of ethanol who spoke at the meeting was Orrie Swayze of Wilmot, S.D., a former president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. “This is the first resolution in the nation by an ethanol-supporting organization that challenges its members to use E30 in all of their standard vehicles because it is legal, and it is the best fuel for their standard vehicles,” Swayze said.

The delegates to the convention also discussed the upcoming November 2016 election. The SDFU is working to change the way political districts are created in the state. The Legislature currently is in charge of drawing legislative district boundaries, which has created districts that are often unfavorable to rural voters.

The Farmers Union wants an independent redistricting commission and collected over 40,000 signatures to get it on the ballot. Only 27,741 signatures were needed.

The matter is also a problem in urban areas, where the Legislature has created districts that are shaped for political advantage and prevent meaningful competition among political parties and philosophies. Sombke figured the political fight might cost the SDFU alone more than $250,000, depending on how much opposition there is.

Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union president, addressed the state group. He said SDFU has been a leader in ethanol advocacy but national politics and publicity don’t bode well for policy changes.

“Who would have ever thought that tar sands oil (from Canada) would be painted as cleaner and greener and better for the environment than ethanol?” Johnson said. ” How do you get there? That’s the line the oil and gas industry is peddling, and they’re doing it because (consumers) are buying it.