EPA ruling on 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations undermines ethanol industry

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) is disappointed in the final rule setting the renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for ethanol for 2020 issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Dec. 19. The rule sets conventional ethanol demand for next year at 15.8 billion gallons and not at the 16.34 billion gallons necessary to immediately move the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) market and incentivize industry growth.

“The EPA missed a big opportunity to restore market faith that there will be 2020 ethanol demand at the levels laid out in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) law,” said Roger Berry, NEB administrator. “We appreciate that the EPA increased the RVO by .8 billion gallons of conventional ethanol, but there is no evidence this addition will ultimately reflect the number of lost 2020 gallons given the EPA’s historical practice of granting retroactive Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) without reallocation. This ruling also does not set safeguards into place that will ensure SREs are only granted to refineries who truly prove economic hardship.”

Since 2017, the EPA has granted roughly 40 percent more waived gallons than the annual average of about .8 billion that were recommended to have been waived by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

“The EPA has now had its say on next year’s ethanol demand volumes,” Berry said. “We are going to work with our political champions and industry peers to ensure that the EPA does not grant more than .8 billion in SREs for 2020, so that there will be a solid 15 billion gallons of stable conventional ethanol demand next year. That outcome will help restore confidence and growth in the ethanol industry, and we look forward to seeing improvement as soon as possible.”

“We are cautiously hopeful that the EPA will start strictly following DOE’s recommendations, as Secretary Perdue told me in person last week that 15 billion gallons of conventional corn ethanol truly means 15 billion gallons,” said Nebraska Ethanol Board Chairman Jan tenBensel.   

A full copy of the ruling can be found here.

Fuel Retailers and Drivers Raise Thousands for Local Cancer Center

Representatives from the Nebraska Ethanol Board, Nebraska Corn Board and Renewable Fuels Nebraska presented a donation check to the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center Dec. 11.

LINCOLN, Nebraska – In the past two years, fuel retailers across Nebraska have joined forces to raise more than $13,000 for cancer research as part of Fuel the Cure. During October, when drivers chose higher blends of ethanol fuel like E15, E30 and E85 at participating retail locations, gas stations donated 3 cents for each gallon sold. The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha received $6,190.47 and the June E. Nylen Cancer Center received $500, thanks to a generous match from Siouxland Ethanol.

“Donations to cancer research truly make a difference,” said Jenn Klein, a wife, mother, and breast cancer survivor. “I’m thankful funding was available to discover treatment before I needed it or I might not be here today.” 

When Klein was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, her cancer cells were growing and dividing at a rate of about 80 percent. Treatment was needed immediately. A funded researcher discovered two of the four chemotherapy treatments she underwent.

While biofuels and cancer research may seem like an unlikely pairing, studies shows that using more biofuels leads to less air pollution. According to the American Lung Association, up to 70 percent of ground-level ozone-forming pollutants come from mobile-source emissions.

Chemicals in gasoline are the same carcinogens found in tobacco, which are linked to cancer. Higher blends of biofuels dilute the toxicity and help reduce cancer-causing aromatics released from tailpipe emissions. Ethanol-blended fuels also reduce greenhouse gases by 42 percent.

“Fuel retailers know that regular and premium gasoline is harmful to the air we breathe. By making higher ethanol blends available, they are empowering consumers to help make a difference. Supporting Fuel the Cure is a step beyond because the funds are directly impacting lives of patients at the Cancer Center,” said Roger Berry, administrator for the Nebraska Ethanol Board. “Presently, we are dependent on fuel to get around while we work toward a better solution. By choosing higher blends of ethanol in the fuel we put in our cars, we can all do more toward creating a healthier environment now and for the future.”

Drivers who choose ethanol at the pump often see a price break, and their use of ethanol supports Nebraska farmers and the economy. To find a location near you, visit getbiofuel.com.

E15, also called Unleaded 88, is approved for use in all passenger vehicles 2001 and newer. One in seven Nebraskans are driving a flex fuel vehicle, which can run on any blend of American Ethanol up to E85 (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline). Drivers can check their owner’s manual to see if they’re driving a flex fuel vehicle. The vehicle might also have a flex fuel badge on the trunk or tailgate — or a yellow gas cap.

While 2019 Fuel the Cure has ended, the Nebraska Ethanol Board is already preparing for next year’s event and would encourage Nebraska fuel retailers who are interested in participating to reach out.

“We continue to see the number of fuel retailers in Nebraska offering E15 increase, and we are going to continue educating fuel retailers and the public to make the option more easily accessible,” Berry said. “The more higher ethanol blends we make available to drivers, the bigger the impact we are making.”

The Nebraska Corn and Ethanol boards, along with Renewable Fuels Nebraska, sponsor Fuel the Cure in conjunction with retail stations. To see the full list of stations that donated funds, visit www.fuelthecure.pink.

NEB Submits Final Comments Asking EPA to Uphold RFS

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) has submitted comments  to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed supplemental rulemaking to the 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

On Oct. 15, the EPA released the details of its RVO proposal, which fails to ensure the RFS is upheld and continues to allow the EPA to blatantly abuse Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs). Despite earlier promises from the Trump administration that the EPA would reallocate SREs in 2020 based on the average of actual gallons waived from 2016 to 2018, the agency’s proposed approach fails to account for its previous shortfalls and does not ensure 15 billion gallons of ethanol blending will occur in 2020.

“Many farmers have had it! Multiple ethanol plants have stopped production. In addition, months of unfruitful promises from the EPA and Trump administration have left the ethanol industry where we started ­– suffering,” said Jan tenBensel, NEB Chairman and a farmer from Cambridge, Nebraska.

This tumultuous battle has caused a lot of distress throughout the industry, impacting ethanol producers, farmers, and investors eager to see the success of ethanol, which will in turn improve air quality and boost the economy. NEB maintains that it wants to see the EPA make up for the destruction that has occurred and to set safeguards into place that will ensure SREs are only granted to refineries who truly prove economic hardship.

“We need to have a relationship with the oil industry, which is what the RFS was intended to be when it was established many administrations ago,” said NEB Administrator Roger Berry. “We do not want to see the demise of the oil industry. Our world has not yet reached a point where we can be independent of oil. What we want is to work with them to make a sustainable future powered by a healthier fuel. If we continue to ignore the dire need to clean up our air with the addition of biofuels in our fuel, we are going to put ourselves into a world of hurt. This goes beyond pocketbooks for us. The success of the ethanol industry is important for the future of the world we ALL live in – not just farmers, ethanol producers, and environmentalists.”     

Regardless of the EPA’s decisions, the NEB urges the public to continue supporting ethanol. There are several simple ways to do this:

  • Submit your own comments to the EPA.
  • Create demand by continuing to use ethanol and asking others to as well. Buy flex fuel vehicles. If you are a dealership, sell more flex fuel vehicles. 
  • Share with friends and family how and why you support ethanol. Are you a corn farmer? Do you work in an ethanol plant? Do you fill up with ethanol? Ask us for a free ethanol performs bumper sticker!
  • Stay in the know. The ethanol industry is not going away. There is constant policy work being done to see its success, and there are organizations working to increase its availability. Read up on ethanol regularly and become an advocate.
  • Educators – make ethanol part of your curriculum by exploring agriculture, science, and clean air initiatives.
  • Ethanol producers – work with fuel retailers to make selling higher ethanol blends easier.
  • Fuel retailers – empower your patrons to help our environment and economy all while saving a few bucks by simply filling up with higher ethanol blends at the tanks. You can do this by educating your employees and patrons about the benefits of ethanol, and selling ethanol blended fuels.

Nebraska Ethanol Board Dec. 11 board meeting to be held in Lincoln

LINCOLN, NEB – The Nebraska Ethanol Board will hold a board meeting in Lincoln on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 9 a.m. The meeting will be in the Olive Branch Room, lower level of the Cornhusker Marriott (333 S 13th St.). The agenda is as follows:

  1. Call Meeting to Order
  2. Approval of Agenda
  3. Approval of Sept. 13, 2019, Board Meeting Minutes
  4. Budget Report
  5. Fuel Retailer Update & Nov. 13 Norfolk Workshop Recap
  6. E30 Demonstration Update
  7. Renewable Fuels Nebraska Update
  8. Nebraska Corn Board Update
  9. Environmental, Health & Safety Summit Review
  10. Marketing Programs
  11. Dues and Memberships
  12. Approval of Contracts
  13. State and Federal Legislation
  14. Ethanol Plant Reports
  15. Chair’s Report
  16. Administrator’s Report
  17. Working Lunch
  18. Editorial Discussion
  19. Travel Reports and Authorization
  20. Personnel
  21. Election of Board Officers for 2020
  22. Public Opportunity for Questions, Comments or Concerns
  23. Next Meeting Date
  24. Adjourn

This agenda contains all items to come before the Board except those items of an emergency nature.

The Nebraska Ethanol Board works to ensure strong public policy and consumer support for biofuels. Since 1971, the independent state agency has designed and managed programs to expand production, market access, worker safety and technology innovation, including recruitment of producers interested in developing conventional ethanol, as well as bio-products from the ethanol platform. For more information, visit www.ethanol.nebraska.gov.

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Ethanol Board Brings Free E15 Workshop to Norfolk

The Nebraska Ethanol Board is urging Nebraska fuel retailers to join fellow Midwest states like Iowa and Minnesota in making E15 fuel more widely available to motorists. A move by the Trump Administration in May promised a surge in year-round sales, but consumers are asking for more availability in Nebraska.

To help fuel retailers learn more about the ease of selling E15, the Board is hosting a free E15 Workshop, including a keynote from Growth Energy’s Sara Brenden. The workshop will take place Nov. 13 at the Divots Conference Center in Norfolk, Nebraska, from 1:30 to 5 p.m.

Some retailers have been reluctant to retrofit their pumps for E15 due to misconceptions about cost and installation.     

 “Many gas stations can begin to sell E15 with very little investment in their current infrastructure,” said Roger Berry, administrator for the Nebraska Ethanol Board. “That’s why we are holding this complimentary workshop to debunk the myths and allow retailers to hear firsthand from others who’ve gone through the process.”

Berry explains that the process depends on everyone’s unique circumstances, but it can be as simple as a quick switch. 

“If a pre-blended E15 is available at the rack where the fuel retailer sources their fuel, they can often times replace one of their current choices, such as an 89-octane mid-grade that they generally sell very little of, with very little to no investment. The retailer does not have to install the more expensive blender pumps in order to sell E15.”

Additionally, some of cost burdens can be relieved through a grant program from the Nebraska Corn Board, who will award qualifying retailers money for equipment and infrastructure to offer higher blends of ethanol fuel. Jeff Wilkerson, director of market development for the Nebraska Corn Board, is one of several presenters who will highlight ways to make the process simple and affordable.

Brenden, manager of market development at Growth Energy, will begin the workshop with a keynote on Why E15. According to Growth Energy’s website, E15 offers retailers a competitive advantage and can generate more than 40 percent of total gasoline sales at retail. Growth says consumers have driven more than 10 billion miles on E15 and retailers have conducted millions of transactions.

To see the full agenda and to register, click here.

This the second in a series of E15 workshops hosted by the Nebraska Ethanol Board. Previous participants have said:

“I found the Fuel Retailer’s E15 Workshop to be fascinating. It was very informative and I learned a lot about the ethanol industry. We already sell some E15, but this inspired me to work towards making the switch to E15 at more locations. I also learned some good ideas to better promote the product and grow our sales.”

“We have been pondering whether to take on E15. With what I learned and will be sharing with my team, I feel pretty strongly that we will be making the move. The E15 workshop was very educational and helpful.”

The workshop is free thanks to the event sponsors: Stanley Petroleum Maintenance, Inc., Nebraska Corn Board, Renewable Fuels Nebraska, Nebraska Fuel Retailers Association, and the Nebraska Ethanol Board. Light snacks and beverages will be provided throughout the day.

The increase in E15 sales will provide an additional value-added market for Nebraska farmers and ethanol plants who are experiencing many challenges this year. Weather, the strain of tariffs that have cut U.S. exports drastically, and the EPA’s indiscriminate approval of small refinery exemptions (SREs) are weighing heavily on the industry. Fuel retailers who offer E15 will not only be driving customers seeking lower costs and environmental change to their stores, they will have a real impact on Nebraska’s farmers and economy, Berry said. 

The Advancement of Ethanol in Nebraska