All posts by Amber Rucker

Nebraska Ethanol Board’s Statement on New EPA Tailpipe Emissions Standards

LINCOLN, Nebraska – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final rule implementing new multi-pollutant emissions standards for light and medium-duty vehicles of model years 2027 through 2032. The rule creates a regulatory framework that the EPA projects will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). According to the provisions of the rule, approximately two-thirds of annual sales of new light-duty vehicles will need to be EVs by the year 2032.

“Under the language of this rule, EVs are considered zero emissions. This methodology is inherently flawed, especially when considering electricity used to power an EV may come from a multitude of sources from coal-fired power plants to wind farms. Lifecycle emissions associated with the production of a given fuel, whether it is a liquid fuel or electrons, must be assessed appropriately,” critiqued Reid Wagner, executive director of the Nebraska Ethanol Board.

A 2023 study supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and conducted by researchers at the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, examined the lifetimes of U.S. light-duty vehicles. The research found that by 2020 median expected lifetimes already ranged from 17 years for passenger cars and 20 years for SUVs and vans to about 25 years for pickup trucks.

Estimates compiled by the U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) indicate that the number of light-duty vehicles registered in the U.S. has increased year-over-year since 2016, surpassing 283 million in 2022. The number of EV registrations was estimated to have surpassed 2.4 million in 2022, representing less than 1% of all light-duty vehicle registrations, while gasoline-powered light-duty vehicle registrations surpassed 241 million.

“The increasing lifetime of the hundreds of millions of vehicles already on U.S. roads today make a crystal-clear case that we must take a technology-neutral approach to lowering emissions,” Wagner continued. “According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ethanol is already 43% lower in lifecycle emissions than conventional gasoline, and technological advancements occurring at ethanol facilities are continually improving this percentage. The use of higher blends of low-carbon ethanol in gasoline such as E15 and E30 will be able to rapidly, and significantly, reduce carbon emissions in both the legacy fleet and engines of the future.”

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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Year-Round E15 Sale Approved For Nebraska Starting in 2025

LINCOLN, Nebraska – The Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) welcomes the final rule published today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will approve a request from several Midwest governors, including Nebraska. The rule equalizes E10 and E15 regulations, allowing the year-round sale of E15 in the governors’ respective states beginning in 2025.

“We’re excited that the continued persistence of Gov. Pillen and his colleagues has paid off,” NEB Executive Director Reid Wagner said. “Consumers deserve the option of low-cost, low-carbon E15 year-round. It’s great news that Nebraska drivers will have that option permanently beginning in 2025. Unfortunately, this rule also leaves those same drivers without an option for the summer 2024 driving season. We look forward to working with the EPA on ways that we can secure the uninterrupted sale of E15 for this summer.”

Eight Midwest governors originally requested year-round E15 sales from the EPA in 2022, including then-Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. Various delays in the approval process eventually resulted in Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers suing the EPA last year. The EPA published the final rule today, effectively clearing the last hurdle on the long‑awaited change.

“The NEB has long pushed for a permanent fix to E15 regulation,” Wagner said. “Although this rule will allow year-round E15 sales in only the eight Midwestern states who originally requested it, this is a major step in allowing consumers to choose E15 throughout the year without the need for temporary waivers or other measures. We will continue to push for a nationwide legislative fix to allow E15 year-round, and urge Congress to swiftly adopt legislation to resolve this issue beyond the Midwest.”

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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Nebraska Ethanol Board Welcomes Tracy Zink to the Board

LINCOLN, Nebraska – Tracy Zink, who farms in Indianola, Nebraska, joins the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) as the sorghum representative. She was appointed by Gov. Jim Pillen on Nov. 20, 2023, and confirmed by the State of Nebraska Legislature in early 2024.

A third-generation agricultural producer, Zink farms sorghum and a rotation of corn, soybeans and wheat on both irrigated and dryland acres. She markets some of her grains to Trenton Agri Products, an ethanol plant in Trenton, Nebraska.

“It is an exciting time to be joining this long-standing and successful board,” Zink said. “I have observed the significant impact that ethanol has in expanding marketing options, and I am very excited to be joining a board who has a purpose to promote a product that sustains both the agriculture industry and our planet.”

In addition to her appointment to the NEB, Zink holds positions on the Nebraska Sorghum Producers Association; the Middle Republican Natural Resources District; Nebraska Rural Radio Association; and the Nebraska Extension in Red Willow County Board. She was appointed to the National Sorghum Checkoff Board by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in December 2023.

“We are thrilled to welcome Tracy Zink to the board,” said Jan tenBensel, NEB chairman. “She brings a wealth of experience from the technology and advanced practices she’s incorporated on her farm, along with a strong background of leadership positions in multiple sectors.”

Zink tests out new strategies and technologies as a yearly participant in the University of Nebraska Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) program. In 2022, she received the honor of the TAPS Sorghum Triple Crown Winner for the greatest grain yield, highest input-use efficiency, and the most profitable farm and in 2023, she was recognized as Outstanding TAPS Advocate. According to TAPS, participants receive plots of land and make their own individual input on the same field as competitors. These decisions include crop insurance, hybrid and seeding rate, nitrogen timing and amount, irrigation timing and amount, and, lastly, marketing of their crop. The competition is focused on evolving profitability and input-use efficiency. Zink will be the first competitor to introduce irrigated sorghum in 2024. Other crop management practices she will test in the future include sidedressing and how many applications make it beneficial.

Zink’s interest in agriculture comes from working alongside her father on the family farm. However, her strength in athleticism drew her to a career in professional athletics and recreation. After high school, she attended the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1994, earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in sports administration from West Texas A&M in 1996. This led to multiple roles within the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Continuing with the health and wellness industry, Zink spent many years helping seniors stay healthy as a fitness trainer and helped clients transition into senior housing. She returned to the family farm in 2012, where she is now dedicated to the health and wellness of its soil, water and crops.

“As you look out and around, none of this would be possible if we weren’t incredibly mindful about proper stewardship, soil conservation, and managing wind and water erosion,” Zink said of Nebraska agriculture. “I look forward to finding ways for those outside of farming to better learn our story, as it is crucial to fully understanding ethanol’s low carbon footprint.”

Outgoing NEB sorghum representative, Tim Else (Belvidere, Neb.), served five terms on the Nebraska Ethanol Board.

“With our greatest appreciation, we thank our dear colleague and friend, Tim Else, for his service to the ethanol and agricultural community,” tenBensel said. “Through 20 years of dedicated service as a Nebraska Ethanol Board member, Tim contributed invaluable institutional knowledge and leadership.”

The NEB is a seven-member board that includes four members actively engaged in farming (general farming, corn, wheat and sorghum), one member representing labor interests, one member representing petroleum marketers, and one member representing business. The Board’s technical advisor serves as a non-voting member. Members of the NEB are appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the Nebraska Legislature, to serve four-year terms.

Zink joins current board members: Jan tenBensel, chairman (Cambridge, Neb.); Scott McPheeters, vice chairman (Gothenburg, Neb.); Randy Gard, secretary (Grand Island, Neb.); Brad Bird, board member (Omaha, Neb.); Taylor Nelson, board member (Jackson, Neb.); Mike Thede, board member (Palmer, Neb.); and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chemical Engineering Professor Dr. Hunter Flodman, who serves as NEB’s technical advisor. The Board reelected tenBensel, McPheeters and Gard as executive committee officers at the Dec. 4 meeting.

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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Tracy Zink received confirmation from the State of Nebraska Legislature in February 2024 to be the Nebraska Ethanol Board’s next sorghum representative.
The Nebraska Ethanol Board acknowledges and appreciates Tim Else’s 20 years of service to the agency as the sorghum representative. He retired at the end of his term on Aug. 31, 2023.

Nebraska Ethanol Board Feb. 9th board meeting to be held in Lincoln

The Nebraska Ethanol Board will meet in Lincoln at 12:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9th. The meeting will be held at the agency headquarters located at 245 Fallbrook Blvd, Lincoln, Neb., in the lower-level hearing room 031. The agenda is as follows:

  1. Call Meeting to Order
  2. Approval of Agenda
  3. Approval of Dec. 4, 2023, Board Meeting Minutes
  4. Public Opportunity for Questions, Comments or Concerns
  5. Working Lunch
  6. Budget Report
  7. Renewable Fuels Nebraska update
  8. Nebraska Corn Board update
  9. Fuel Retailer update
  10. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Manufacturing Extension Partnership update
  11. Economic Impact Study update
  12. State and Federal Legislation
  13. Ethanol Plant Reports
  14. NEB-hosted Conferences & Events
  15. Technical & Research updates
  16. Travel Reports and Authorization
  17. Next Meeting Date
  18. Marketing Programs
  19. Chair’s Report
  20. Executive Director’s Report
  21. Adjourn

This agenda contains all items to come before the Board except those items of an emergency nature. Nebraska Ethanol Board meetings are open to the public and also published on the public calendar.

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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USDA Awards Biofuel Infrastructure Grants in Nebraska; More Funds Available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $19 million worth of Higher Blend Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) grants in 22 states, benefiting 16 Nebraska retail locations across the state.

Launched in July 2023 with a $450 million budget, HBIIP aims to boost sustainable fuel markets by supporting ethanol and biodiesel infrastructure improvements. The current application window closes on March 31, 2024. Additional application windows will follow until funds are exhausted. Check out the Nebraska Ethanol Board’s HBIIP 101 for application deadlines, resources for grant writing and technical support, webinars, and tips on making the application process easier.

The USDA encourages fuel retailers of all sizes to apply, sharing costs for biofuel-related infrastructure development. The program has a targeted assistance goal of 50% of funding going toward those owning 10 or fewer stations. Priority will be given to applications who meet geographic diversity points, such as being the only station within a one-mile radius and/or stations located within one mile of the interstate that are easily accessible.

Biofuels are vital for energy security, air pollution reduction, and rural economic development. According to the USDA, about 96 percent – roughly 220 million – of the vehicles on U.S. roads today may legally use E15. This includes vehicles with model year 2001 and newer that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved. Additionally, one in 10 Nebraskans driving flex fuel vehicles can use higher blends up to E85. B20, a biodiesel blend which ranges from 6% to 20% biodiesel with petroleum diesel, is compatible with all diesel vehicles.

HBIIP significantly increases the sales and use of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel. Since the current program’s 2020 debut, USDA has invested more than $77.8 million in projects expected to increase biofuels sales by 1.2 billion gallons annually. Additionally, the Nebraska Higher Blend Tax Credit Act offers a meaningful tax incentive for retailers offering higher ethanol blends. Retailers can receive a tax credit in the amount of 8 cents per gallon sold of E15 and 8 cents per gallon sold of blends containing 25% ethanol and above for calendar year 2024. The credits in varying amounts last through 2028.

The expansion of biofuel infrastructure broadens the availability of renewable fuels like E15, E85, and B20, which helps Nebraskans save money at the pump while reducing carbon emissions and harmful tailpipe pollution. Expanded use of higher blends of biofuels in Nebraska also supports corn and soybean farmers and contributes billions to the state’s annual GDP.