LINCOLN, NE—A slap in the face to the American farmer and another strike against the American consumer. That’s how Nebraska’s corn industry is characterizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to reduce the amount of corn-based American Ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply.
On Monday, EPA announced its decision to adjust the prescribed volume of corn-based ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply as originally set forth in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) passed by Congress. EPA has determined that the volume of corn-based American Ethanol required in 2016 will be 14.5 billion gallons instead of 15 billion gallons as outlined in the RFS. EPA also reduced the corn-ethanol requirement for 2015 to 14.05 billion gallons, compared to the original 15 billion gallons prescribed in the RFS.
“EPA has clearly bowed to the influence of the oil industry in reducing these volume requirements,” said David Merrell, a family farmer from St. Edward, Nebraska, and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. “The unquestioned success of the RFS has created greater fuel choice at the pump for consumers and that cuts into the market share for the oil companies. They don’t like that—and apparently EPA paid a lot of attention to their complaints.”
The reduction in the corn ethanol requirement equates to more than 500 million bushels of lost corn demand over 2015 and 2016. Nebraska is the nation’s second largest ethanol producer and the third largest corn producing state. Nebraska leads the nation in cattle feeding, due in large part to the ready availability of distillers grains, a high-value livestock feed which is a co-product of ethanol production.
“The RFS has been one of the most successful rural development programs in the history of our nation—creating jobs and economic vitality, building demand for corn and creating a high value feed for our livestock industry,” Merrell said. “Instead of amplifying the contribution that rural America can make to our nation’s energy future, EPA has decided to default to the status quo and extend our dependence on fossil fuels and their detrimental effect on our economy and environment.”
Because of American Ethanol, the United States reduced its use of crude oil by 512 million barrels, more than is imported annually from Saudi Arabia.
A recent study found that biofuels such as corn ethanol have led to a dramatic reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The analysis conducted by California-based Life Cycle Associates and sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association concluded that biofuels consumed under the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) have reduced U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 354 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent since 2008. The study found that conventional corn ethanol reduced emissions by an average of 29 percent when compared to the petroleum actually used in 2008, with that reduction growing to 39 percent by 2015.
Larry Mussack of Decatur, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, said “It’s sad that the very agency responsible for protecting our environment has opted to favor petroleum-based fuels that foul the air, pollute our water, endanger human health and accelerate climate change,” Mussack added. “American Ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions, burns clean, reduces air pollution and does not harm our water supply. It’s clearly a better alternative to petroleum-based fuels.”
Mussack said the battle is far from over since EPA will continue to set volume requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Congress passed the RFS on behalf of the American people and it has paid dividends for our environment, improved our energy security and saved consumers money at the pump,” Mussack said. “It’s discouraging that a federal agency led by non-elected officials can simply change the will of Congress with the stroke of a pen. We will continue to hold EPA’s feet to the fire and press them to follow the renewable energy roadmap that Congress set forth for our future.”