On Thursday, December 5, Iowa Corn Growers Association leaders, along with corn growers from 12 other states, attended a public hearing in Washington D.C. The hearing was held following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal announced on November 15 to cut the amount of corn ethanol required under the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard or RFS.
The RFS statute requires that 14.4 billion gallons of conventional (corn based) ethanol be blended in 2014; however, the proposed EPA rule is that only 13.01 billion gallons of corn ethanol be blended into the nation's gasoline supply in 2014. "EPA is proposing to roll the RFS requirement back to 13 billion gallons of ethanol for 2014," says Craig Floss, executive director of the ICGA. "That's less than the 13.8 billion gallons that was used in the U.S. in 2013. This proposal by EPA to reduce the mandated amount is not a good deal for ethanol."
"One of the things we at ICGA and NCGA are trying to do," says Floss, "is to let people know how this is going to affect all of us economically—not just farmers who sell corn for ethanol production, but consumers who will be paying more for gasoline if this proposal by EPA goes through. It will affect the entire state of Iowa, and all states that have a significant share of the market as producers of ethanol."
This isn't a done deal, there is still time for people to submit public comment and try to change EPA's mind
Attending the hearing and providing comments in support of maintaining the current RFS statute were Iowa Corn Growers Association president Roger Zylstra and Iowa Corn's industrial usage and production committee chairman Mark Recker. ICGA staff member Mindy Larsen Poldberg was also in attendance. A total of 31 corn grower representatives from 13 states were present to provide verbal testimony, and 143 speakers were scheduled overall. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley also spoke at the hearing—both of them encouraging the EPA officials to maintain the RFS. "ICGA thanks Governor Branstad and Congressman Braley for being there and for their vocal support of the ethanol industry," says Zylstra.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
EPA is currently accepting public comments as to what people think about the proposal to reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard's requirements. That 60-day comment period closes on January 28.
Earlier last week, the National Corn Growers Association requested that all of its members submit public comments to the EPA regarding the RFS reduction proposal. ICGA is calling on its members to communicate to the EPA the impact of this proposal on their farms and rural communities. You can click here to send a note directly to the EPA opposing the RFS reduction proposal. "We are asking our ICGA members to encourage their family, friends and neighbors to do the same," says Zylstra. For more information on the RFS, click here. "Although the comment period is open for 60 days, we encourage you to send in your comments now," he adds.
There is a pathway around this so-called E10 blend wall problem, and that is to expand use of higher blends of ethanol, such as E15
There is a pathway around this problem of E10, the 10% ethanol blend in gasoline, not being able to achieve the required amount of ethanol to be used, as set by the RFS. "The pathway around this so-called blend wall is simply through the use of E15 which is a higher blend of ethanol than the E10 blend," says Floss. "The EPA has it within their authority to change this situation. One of the obstacles E15 is now faced with is something called a waiver. Motor fuel sold in the summertime has a volatility issue. If EPA would simply get that waiver fixed, you would see retail fuel stations in the state of Iowa and all around the country offering E15 and we could very easily jump over this 10% blend mythical hurdle."
EPA is saying the 15% ethanol blend with gasoline has a volatility issue that has to do with the summertime temperatures. "But there's nothing technically wrong or a problem with this," says Floss. "If EPA would grant this waiver, more gas stations would offer E15. What is happening now is the stations have to quit selling E15 for three months during the summer, and instead have to offer an E10 product instead, because E15 doesn't have the waiver."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
What about using E85 instead of E15? Shouldn't E85 be promoted more? "Our strategy as a corn grower organization in promoting ethanol fuel is an 'all of the above' approach," says Floss. "In other words, we think there is a market for E85 and we also think there is a market for mid-level blends such as E15 or E30. We certainly have been promoting E85 for the last 20 years for use in flex-fuel vehicles. We think the combination of all of those blends being available at retail gas stations for motorists to buy can get this country very close to all of the numbers that are required in the RFS. In fact, not only close to the mandated requirements for each year in the future, but we believe we can exceed it."