Proposed Legislation May Increase Use of Ethanol
By Gordon Hopkins
Outgoing Governor Pete Ricketts has been pushing for the year-round use of E15. Proposed legislation aims to make it a reality.
E15 is a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline. It contains five percent more ethanol than E10, which is currently the most common fuel used in the U.S. E15 is higher in octane, usually 88 octane, while E10 has an octane rating of 87.
On Wednesday, November 30, Senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, along with a bipartisan set of 11 other senators, introduced the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act of 2022. If enacted, the bill would allow for the permanent sale of E15 year-round.
“Thank you, Senators Fischer and Sasse, for introducing a federal solution to our U.S. energy problem,” said Governor Ricketts. “Nebraska has proven that higher blends of ethanol can be safely used in vehicle models old as 2001, making it an accessible energy source to many Americans. If we are to be serious about saving drivers money at the pump, cleaning up the environment, and pursuing domestic energy security, we must embrace year-round E15 as a stable, realistic part of the solution.”
Additional cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).
Fischer had previously introduced the bill in 2017.
“We’ve long known that unleashing the full power of ethanol saves consumers money at the pump, supports family farmers, and boosts U.S. energy security. Now, however, we’ve been able to bring critical oil/gas, biofuel, ag, and transportation stakeholders to the table around a common-sense solution. With this strong coalition of support, it’s time Congress act to make year-round E15 a reality,” said Senator Fischer.
Originally, government regulations authorized the sale of E15 from September 15 to May 31 only. Summer sales of E15 were prohibited. Portions of the Clean Air Act ban the sale of certain fuels during the summer months to curb smog. In 2019, under the administration of former President Donald Trump, summertime sales restrictions were lifted in order to help expand sales of corn-based ethanol.
On Friday, July 2, 2021, the D.C. Circuit of Court Appeals struck down the change, ruling that the EPA exceeded its authority by issuing the waiver.
The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) filed the lawsuit that resulted in the change in policy.
Passage of this legislation could significantly impact corn farmers, since corn grain is used to make ethanol. Nebraska has the second largest ethanol nameplate capacity and the second largest ethanol operating production in the country, based on the federal figures.
Additionally, ethanol is touted by some as a more environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline because corn is a renewable resource and, according to the Nebraska Ethanol Board, “when consumers choose ethanol at the pump, they are helping the environment. Unlike pure gasoline, ethanol is non-toxic and cleaner burning. Its use reduces greenhouse gases by 46 percent.”
According to a press release from Senator Fischer, the bill, “has support from an unprecedented mix of stakeholders, including the National Corn Growers Association, Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, and the American Petroleum Institute.”