Thousands support Nebraska Corn Board effort to increase ethanol blend rate
Scores of farmers and other ethanol backers all across Nebraska responded to a call by the Nebraska Corn Board for grassroots support of a proposal in front of the Environmental Protection Agency that would allow fuel blenders to increase the ethanol blend rate from 10 percent to up to 15 percent.
In total, nearly 5,000 individuals returned yellow postcards in support of the measure, while hundreds more submitted comments online before the July 20 deadline.
"The response to this call to action was just incredible," said Randy Klein, director of market development for the Nebraska Corn Board. "It demonstrates the broad support of and commitment to ethanol in Nebraska. We have a lot at stake in Nebraska, as the second largest ethanol producing state in the country. We want to make sure those plants continue to produce at full capacity."
Several Nebraska ethanol plants that had shutdown or were sold to new owners are now back online and operating at capacity, Klein said, while construction continues on a large plant at Columbus that should come online later this year.
"The ethanol industry is in much better condition now than at the beginning of the year, but we must continue to increase demand," he said.
Industry statistics show that month-by-month, ethanol production this year has surpassed last year.
The industry is on track to meet the 10.5 billion gallons of ethanol necessary to meet the Renewable Fuels Standard target, which is a 1.5 billion gallon increase from last year. The Renewable Fuels Standard is part of the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007.
"A headline or two suggested the corn-based ethanol industry was 'dead'," Klein said. "While parts of the industry have resolved debt issues and the torrid expansion pace has slowed, the industry as a whole is seeing positive returns. It's helping us meet our fuel needs today and remains the most successful renewable fuel in history."
While EPA is not expected to issue a decision on increasing the ethanol blend rate from 10 percent ethanol (e10) to up to 15 percent until December, Klein said he is hopeful that an intermediate blend of up to 12 percent ethanol would be allowed before then.
"The ethanol supply and capacity is there to do that right now," he said. "It would give blenders an opportunity to use more ethanol when it made sense for them and would help keep the biofuels industry growing so we can further reduce our dependence on foreign oil."
Klein added that increasing the ethanol blend rate would expand ethanol's place in the market, which would help maintain jobs in the Midwest.
He noted that in Nebraska, the state's 23 operating ethanol plants have created nearly 1,000 jobs and generate $2.9 billion in total economic output and $51 million in tax revenues each year. "Ethanol provides an important economic boost to the state and nation," Klein said.
The Nebraska Corn Board is a self-help program, funded and managed by Nebraska corn farmers. Producers invest in the program at a rate of 1/4 of a cent per bushel of corn sold. Nebraska corn checkoff funds are invested in programs of market development, research and education.