10th Annual EHS Summit Kicks Off Oct. 14 in Kearney

Safety professionals from across the state will gather in Kearney, Nebraska, for the 10th annual Environmental, Health and Safety Summit Tuesday, Oct. 14.

The daylong summit, which is presented by the Nebraska Ethanol Board, includes speakers from agencies across the country including the Environmental Protection Agency, Air Resource Specialists, Nebraska Safety Council, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Urban Air Initiative.

“This is a great opportunity to network and learn about the latest government regulations,” said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. “We are proud that the summit has grown to include diverse companies beyond the ethanol industry during the past 10 years.”

Originally established to provide compliance, safety, public health and emerging technology information for the rapidly developing ethanol industry, the program has attracted the attention of other professional sectors as government regulations continue to increase, Sneller said.

The Nebraska Ethanol Board works with a variety of private partners and ethanol plant personnel, who focus on compliance, worker safety and public health issues, to put on the summit. College students also are invited to attend and may qualify for a scholarship to waive the admission fee.

The event is presented in cooperation with the Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers (ANEEP) and open to professionals who work in environmental compliance, worker safety, and processing and manufacturing. For registration details, contact the Nebraska Ethanol Board at 402-471-2941 or visit www.ethanol.nebraska.gov.

E85 for $0.85 Friday in Omaha

There are people alive today who have never experienced gas costing less than $3.

But come Friday, thanks to a promotion for ethanol fuel, drivers can pay just $0.85/gallon for E85 fuel.

The deal runs from 9-11 a.m. at the Kum & Go at 72nd and Blondo streets and 1-3 p.m. at the Kum & Go at 90th and Boyd streets. Customers will be limited to 30 gallons.

The promotion was organized by the Nebraska Corn Board, Iowa Corn Promotion Board and Nebraska Ethanol Board.

Organizers say about one in 10 vehicles in Nebraska and Iowa are flex fuel vehicles able to use ethanol gas, and many drivers don’t even know it.

Grand Opening Set for New Flex Fuel Pump in Spalding

Country Partners Cooperative (W. Hwy 91) in Spalding celebrates new a new flex fuel pump with a grand opening Tuesday, Aug. 5.

Drivers can fill up from 1-4 p.m. and save $0.20/gallon on E20, E30 and E85. In addition to savings at the pump, there will also be refreshments, giveaways and drawings.

“If you don’t know if you drive a flex fuel vehicle, come visit us during the grand opening,” said Kim Clark, director of biofuels development with the Nebraska Corn Board.

This E85 flex fuel pump is one of approximately 80 in Nebraska to offer a variety of renewable ethanol fuel blends. This station will offer E10 – a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, E20 – a blend of 20 percent ethanol and 80 percent gasoline, E30 – a blend of 30 percent ethanol and 70 percent gasoline, and E85 – a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Fuels blended with 20 percent ethanol or greater are for flex fuel vehicles only. To find a list of retailers that offer E85 and other mid-level ethanol blends visit the Nebraska Ethanol Board website at www.ethanol.nebraska.gov or check the Nebraska Corn Board website at www.nebraskacorn.org.

One in 10 Nebraska motorists currently own a flex fuel vehicle, which can run on any blend of ethanol and gasoline, up to E85. To confirm if a vehicle is flex fuel, drivers can check their owner’s manual, their gas cap, look for the flex fuel emblem on their vehicle or visit the website http://www.ethanol.nebraska.gov/ffv.

“While gas prices keep increasing, flex fuel vehicle owners can enjoy a greater savings at the pump when using ethanol fuel blends,” Clark said. “When the price spread between E85 and regular gasoline hits a certain point, flex fuel vehicle owners can save quite a bit of money as well as improving Nebraska’s economy.”

“Consumer choice and ethanol fuel availability are a high priority with today’s gas prices,” said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. “When flex fuel drivers fill up on E85, they’re creating jobs, making our country more energy independent and going easier on the environment.”

This blender pump was paid for in part by a grant on behalf of Nebraska’s 23,000 corn producers through their checkoff program as administered by the Nebraska Corn Board.

Ethanol Reduces the Damage Oil Causes to the Climate

Original article printed in Farm Progress Magazine.

Every time you fill up at the pump, American consumers are reminded of the strain gasoline puts on the family budget. With the constant volatility and chaos of global oil markets holding economies hostage, fuel consumers want and need choices at the pump, Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol board.

Domestically produced ethanol fuel provides that choice, he says. As the most effective alternative to gasoline, ethanol accounts for more than 10 percent by volume of U.S. motor fuel consumption.

Ethanol is the lowest cost alternative to gasoline, according to Sneller. In the first week of July, ethanol prices averaged $0.88/gallon less than gasoline at Midwest fuel terminals. For a vehicle traveling 12,000 miles per year, this translates to an annual fuel saving of $502.

Ethanol also significantly reduces crude oil imports that still account for 35 percent of U.S. consumption, Sneller adds. “Imported crude is one of the most significant elements of the U.S. annual trade deficit. Ethanol reduces greenhouse gas impacts of gasoline and is the fuel of choice in areas of the world where low carbon fuel standards dictate fuel composition.”

Ethanol displaces toxic chemicals used in the production of gasoline, he points out. For example, ethanol replaces benzene, a toxic carcinogen, used by U.S. oil refiners to boost octane in gasoline. The reduction or replacement of toxic gasoline chemicals in gasoline with ethanol reduces gasoline’s most harmful health and environmental effects.

“The economies of Nebraska and other Midwestern states are interwoven with the ethanol sector,” Sneller says. “Recent University of Nebraska studies describe the economic bounce in the state’s economy when the ethanol sector is fully operational. It is in the best interests of Nebraskans and Americans to insist that wise state and federal fuel standards that include ethanol be supported by policymakers.”

Lower Prices the Selling Point for Gas With Higher Ethanol Content, but Questions Remain

Original article published by Omaha World Herald

At a U-Stop gas station and convenience store in Lincoln last week, the pumps dispensing gasoline with 15 percent, 30 percent and 85 percent ethanol attracted a steady of stream of customers who have embraced blends higher than the E10 that has become a fixture at the nation’s fueling stops.

Higher-blend ethanol “is the right product for me,” said Mick Pierce, who was gassing up his minivan with E85. “I have 14 grandkids with sports and activities from southwest Lincoln to northeast Lincoln, so it saves me a little money.”

The savings were more than decent. Pierce’s E85 cost $2.89 a gallon, versus $3.47 for E10. On a 15-gallon fill-up, that works out to almost $9. Done weekly, that’s almost $40 a month.

A straightforward appeal to the consumer pocketbook is emerging as the chief strategy of an ethanol industry facing uncertain government mandates. Gasolines mixed with higher blends of ethanol are going to be required if the goal is to get more renewable fuels into U.S. vehicles, according to industry representatives in Nebraska, the second-largest producer of the motor fuel, and the third-largest of its main ingredient, corn.

Serious consideration of higher blends emerged last year, after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed cutting the amount of corn-based ethanol that must be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply by about 9 percent, to 13.1 billion gallons. Protests from the ethanol industry ensued and the matter is still under debate.

In cutting the mandate — the EPA is charged with enforcing the 2005 federal law that guides ethanol mixing regulations — the agency cited what the industry calls the “blend wall.” That is the saturation point at which gasoline-ethanol blends higher than 10 percent are required, because lower ethanol percentages are insufficient to get all of the EPA-mandated ethanol into the nation’s fuel supply.

There were about 10 million flex-fuel vehicles on the road a year ago, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. Flex-fuel vehicles are the newer models that can accommodate high mixes of ethanol with clear gas. But there are few of them compared with the total U.S. light-vehicle fleet of about 250 million, suggesting that they won’t make a big immediate dent in the nation’s fuel mix.

That leaves a far vaster universe of potential E15 candidates, cars and light trucks made in 2001 or later that the EPA says can safely use the fuel. Ethanol advocates say 15 million new E15-eligible vehicles join the fleet every year.

There is a caveat. From June 1 through Sept. 15 in most of the country, only flex-fuel vehicles are authorized by the EPA to use E15, because of emission concerns. Only in the other months does the EPA allow any vehicle made in 2001 or later to use E15.

For now, E15 availability is spotty. The Nebraska Ethanol Board website lists a handful of retailers around the state offering it, mostly in smaller towns and at a few farmer co-ops. E85, certified by manufacturers as safe for the newer flex-fuel vehicles, is more widely available.

The important thing, ethanol folks say, is that right now, the higher the ethanol content, the lower the price, even factoring in mileage declines attributable to the lower energy content of ethanol. The federal government says E15 reduces gas mileage by about 5 percent, while ethanol advocates have said it is less than half that. E15 was selling last week at the Lincoln U-Stop at 84th Street and U.S. Highway 6 for $3.42 a gallon, versus $3.47 for E10 and about $4 a gallon for 91-octane gasoline, the only clear gas the station sells.

“Gas is gas,” said Todd Becker, chief executive of Omaha-based ethanol producer Green Plains Energy. “Right now, we are the cheapest molecule, and that is what is going to be decisive in this.”

Becker said people should not make any mistake in evaluating what is going on. It comes down, he said, to what will make retailers the most money. And in the motor fuel business, where profit on the combustible liquids sold from the pumps is close to zero, it means attracting people indoors where the moneymakers shake their assets from the store shelves.

“This is about potato chips and soft drinks,” Becker said. “There are economic reasons for retailers to offer E15.”

In Nebraska, the 50-store Pump & Pantry chain owned by the Grand Island-based Bosselman Cos., sells E15 at some locations. There is also the Lincoln-based U-Stop chain, which offers E15 at the one location in Lincoln.

Others are taking it far more seriously. The Tennessee-based convenience store chain MAPCO Express said this year that it plans to offer E15 at all new stores, aiming for 100 locations overall out of its roster of 362 in seven states.

As can be expected with a politically charged topic involving billions of dollars, not everyone likes it. Ethanol has long-standing and vociferous critics, and higher blends get the double-barrel treatment just as their predecessors did.

“Ethanol blends higher than 10 percent can damage engines and fuel systems that can cause vehicles that use it to break down, even vehicles that EPA has approved to use the fuel, according to Coordinating Research Council’s testing,” said Carlton Carroll, spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute. “There is also a CRC study showing more ethanol can harm onboard diagnostic systems and cause the check-engine light not to turn on when something is wrong or to turn on unnecessarily.”

Carroll also said that some auto manufacturers have said they will not honor warranties when higher blends cause damage and that the American Automobile Association found in a survey that only 12 million out of the 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads at the time of the analysis were approved by manufacturers to use E15. Thirteen manufacturers stated that the use of E15 may void warranty coverage, Carroll said.

“An overwhelming 95 percent of consumers surveyed by AAA were not familiar with higher ethanol blends such as E15, which is just now appearing in a handful of filling stations in the Midwest, indicating a strong likelihood of consumer confusion leading to misfueling,” he said.

The ethanol industry disputes all of that, saying E15 is the most-tested fuel in history and is safely used in other parts of the world in vehicles that are identical to those sold by the same manufacturer in the United States.

“There is no difference in the vehicles using it elsewhere around the world and those that could be using it here,” said Green Plains CEO Becker. “That is all fun and games on the part of ethanol opponents.”

Back at the Lincoln U-Stop, horse breeder Ken Stading said he comes in about twice a week to fill up gas cans with E15 for use in weed cutters, tractors and other power equipment at his K/B Stables. Stading said he has noticed no abnormal wear and tear on the small engines, a common complaint heard from ethanol critics.

“Had no trouble at all,” Stading said. (Becker puts it this way: “I can’t solve the world’s energy problems one lawn mower at a time.”)

At stake is an industry that has barreled onto the scene. There are now about 224 U.S. ethanol plants, with an aggregate capital investment of about $22 billion. In Nebraska, there are 24 plants, while No. 1 corn producer Iowa has 42 to lead the nation.

Ethanol advocates are fond of saying that the Midwest could easily be self-sufficient in both fuel and food, dependent on no trading partners and that the multiplier effects of the ethanol business benefit everyone from farmers to taxing authorities.

But in the end, none of that really matters when it comes to motivating people to buy ethanolized gas, said Mark Whitehead, owner of Whitehead Oil, operator of the U-Stop chain.

“No one is going to do it for farmers or the economy of Nebraska,” Whitehead said. “They are going to do it for themselves.”

The Advancement of Ethanol in Nebraska