By Matt Reese
When it comes to making the decision about increasing the non-mandated ethanol blend limit from the current 10% to 15%, the U.S. EPA continues to fumble the ball. Ethanol supporters are thinking now may be the time for Congress to pick it up.
“EPA promised in June, they promised in July and now they’re talking about late fall to announce the decision,” said Dwayne Siekman, CEO of the Ohio Corn Growers Association. “There are two pieces of legislation in DC on this issue, one in the Senate and one in the House. Right now in the Ohio Congressional Delegation, we have one co-sponsor and that is Marcy Kaptur.”
With increased support of lawmakers, the ethanol industry is poised to take the country to a future of increased renewable fuel use.
“Corn growers believe a strong commitment to domestic energy production can supply the nation’s thirst for dependable, safe and abundant energy. The country already has one dependable and safe energy product that will help us reach the nation’s domestic energy goals. Ethanol is here, ethanol is now and ethanol is part of our future,” Siekman said. “We want everybody to realize the economic benefits of ethanol. There is nothing else in the agricultural industry that rivals the economic potential. There is an economic benefit to consumers. I have been buying E85 for 60 cents below unleaded for about 3 months now.”
The cost of ethanol makes it very attractive for blenders to use increased amounts, but they are limited to a 10% ethanol blend under current regulations. On the production side, ethanol producers cannot justify increasing production due to the “blend wall.”
“Increasing the limit to 15% is reasonable. This will create jobs, it will expand the industry and it will help agriculture. It will do a lot of good things – less dependence on foreign sources for our energy needs, it’s better for our environment — there’s no down side to this. I have no idea why we wouldn’t move in this direction and agriculture is up to the challenge,” said Governor Ted Strickland, who sent a letter to the EPA encouraging a decision to raise the limit for ethanol blending. “It’s a value added product. In the past, before we had these ethanol facilities, Ohio corn was sent out of the state to some other community that benefited from taking it and adding value to it by making ethanol. Now we’re doing that right here in Ohio and that is good news. I would like to see it expand.”
With the oil industry looking like a less viable long-term option as of late, ethanol supporters are looking to make a big push to bolster support for the top domestic fuel source produced in farm fields.
“By producing over 420 million gallons of ethanol and 1.2 million tons of distiller’s grain per year, Ohio’s ethanol industry has shown it has a positive impact on local communities. Yet, we can accomplish so much more if federal policy will support domestic ethanol. Congress needs to make expanding the production and consumption of our own renewable, clean burning fuel a priority,” said Mark Borer, Ohio Ethanol Producers President and Growth Energy member.
Growth Energy has asked Congress to reauthorize the tariff on foreign energy to protect American energy independence and jobs, reauthorize the blender’s tax credit or produce other tax legislation that would help level the playing field for ethanol, and open the fuels market so owners of flex fuel vehicles have access more blender pumps.