LINCOLN — The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) supplemental plans to the 2020 Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) rule-making are not a win for Nebraska’s ethanol industry, according to the Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.
“We just can’t get a win,” said Dan Nerud, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Dorchester. “We truly thought the administration was on the right track with the Oct. 4 announcement from President Trump. However, the devil is in the details. Any proposed rule that does not account for actual waived ethanol gallons does not restore integrity to the RFS.”
Nerud said the proposed rule comes less than two weeks after Trump directed the EPA to adhere to the law and keep the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) whole by accounting for gallons of ethanol lost due to refinery waivers.
David Bruntz, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and a farmer from Friend, said the Nebraska Corn Board appreciates the intent of the EPA to follow through with Department of Energy recommendations on waivers going forward, but it is unclear how waivers will be accounted for in the 2020 volume requirements based on the proposed rule.
“The EPA missed the mark,” Bruntz said. “They’ve had continual opportunities to make the RFS whole, but they once again fell short. Nebraska Corn will continue to fight for the integrity of the RFS and to ensure the final 2020 RVO reflects the commitments made by President Trump.”
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., also said she is disappointed in how the agency is proposing to address the three year rolling average to ensure a net 15 billion gallons is blended into the nation’s fuel supply.
“This is different than what we expected based on our previous conversations with the administration,” Fischer said. “I encourage Nebraska farmers and ethanol producers to weigh in during this comment period. I remain committed to holding the EPA accountable and providing certainty for rural America.”
She said the supplemental rule seeks comments on whether to take the three-year rolling average of the Department of Energy’s recommendations to the EPA in either 2015-2017 or 2016-2018 into account when calculating the reallocation of biofuel gallons lost due to recent exemptions for oil refineries.
Earlier this month, after a concerted effort by Fischer, the EPA unveiled a new RFS deal under which it would factor in those recent waivers exempting oil refineries when setting new annual Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) starting with 2020. Accounting for these exemptions would ensure the 15 billion net gallons of conventional biofuel obligation is met in the 2020 RVO.
The deal followed an announcement by the EPA earlier this year to allow the year-round sale of E-15. Fischer said she long fought for year-round sales and was a lead sponsor of the bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, which would have allowed retailers to sell E-15 and other higher-ethanol blends all year.
A delegation of ethanol industry leaders from Mexico were in Nebraska last week to gain a better understanding of the U.S. ethanol sector. From Wednesday through Friday, the delegation toured all facets of Nebraska’s ethanol industry, from cornfield to fuel retailer.
They traveled to Giltner and visited Hunnicutt Farms. At the farm, the team learned about corn, seed corn, popcorn and soybean production. Through discussions with Nebraskans, the delegation was introduced to cutting-edge technologies in American agriculture and was able to better understand how some farmers use irrigation equipment.
“By bringing this group onto our farm, we’re able to really lay the foundation and show how renewable ethanol is and how easy it is to incorporate into a nation’s fuel supply,” said Brandon Hunnicutt, vice chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and co-owner of Hunnicutt Farms.
“Also, by bringing trade teams to farms and to ethanol plants, we’re able to build relationships with our customers that hopefully develop into long-term partnerships. I like to think the U.S. is the best in the world when it comes to corn and ethanol production. We’re open for business and want to share our products with the world.”
The group also toured Chief Ethanol, an ethanol processing plant in Hastings; Magellan Midstream Partners, a fuel pipeline, storage and transportation company in Doniphan; and Bosselman’s Travel Center, a fuel retailer in Grand Island. It left the state Friday morning after meeting with Gov. Pete Ricketts; Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture; and Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board.
“In times when there’s so much uncertainty in regards to trade, it’s great to have our top customers visit to remind them how much we value their business,” said Bruntz. “Mexico is our No. 1 customer when it comes to corn and distiller’s grains, and there is so much potential for increased ethanol exports. We are glad to have had time with this delegation to show appreciation for their past business, answer questions about our corn and ethanol industries and to let them know we’re working hard to ensure the passage of USMCA.”
The visit from the Mexican delegation was an offshoot of an even larger event earlier in the week. The first-ever Global Ethanol Summit occurred Sunday through Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Government officials and industry leaders from 60 countries attended the summit to learn about the benefits of expanding global ethanol use. The event was organized and hosted by the U.S. Grains Council, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association.