The Environmental Protection Agency is not a four-letter word, but for some agricultural producers in Nebraska and elsewhere, it surely has seemed like it at times.
But that may be changing in light of the recent decision by the Trump administration and the EPA to allow year-round sales of gasoline mixed with 15% ethanol.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced the change recently, ending a summertime ban on the E15 blend imposed out of concerns for increased smog from the higher ethanol blend. Until the change, the only ethanol blend fuel typically found in summer months was a 10% ethanol blend called E10.
The change also fulfills a pledge that President Donald Trump made to U.S. corn farmers, who see ethanol as an important driver of demand for their crops. Ethanol also plays an important rural economic development role in Northeast Nebraska and elsewhere where ethanol production plants are located.
Not surprisingly, the decision didn’t please everyone.
Environmental groups, for example, contend the U.S. Clean Air Act prohibits year-round sales of E15, and court challenges are expected.
But we’re confident that such a court fight can be won.
The change removes a barrier to wider sales of E15 and is expected to expand the market for ethanol, although it will take some time. That’s because only about 1,000 to 1,500 of more than 150,000 U.S. gas stations currently sell the higher-ethanol blend.
The change has been widely lauded by Midwest lawmakers, farm groups and the biofuel industry.
“Our corn farmers are experiencing a perfect storm of economic and weather difficulties. This is a sign that the skies could be clearing,” said Ted Mottaz, a farmer from Elmwood, Illinois, and president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association.
Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said in a statement that the EPA deserves credit for making the change ahead of this year’s summer driving season.
“Year-round E15 opens up a vital new market, where innovators in advanced and cellulosic biofuels will have space to grow alongside American farmers,” Coleman said.
This was a long-awaited decision, and the right one.
Kudos to the president for following through with his promise and, in doing so, making the EPA an agency a bit more palatable to farmers everywhere.