Biofuels help to grow Nebraska
In our ag economy, biofuels are playing an increasingly important role in growing more opportunity for the next generation of farm families. With economic uncertainty and low commodity prices, ethanol not only helps build reliable demand for our corn, but it also helps our country achieve greater energy independence. Nebraska now has the capacity to produce over 2.5 billion gallons of ethanol. The ethanol industry directly employs over 1,300 Nebraskans and indirectly supports many more jobs. Because of this, we have been spurring investment in ethanol by increasing flex fuel infrastructure, expanding trade opportunities, and advocating for biofuels at the federal level.
Over the summer, I have been traveling the state to highlight the availability of new flex fuel infrastructure. In the past couple of years, my team and the Nebraska Energy Office has been working with the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Ethanol Board to install more flex fuel pumps in communities across the state. Recently, I visited Grant where Aurora Cooperative has launched a new flex fuel pump. In May, I attended a ribbon cutting event for new flex fuel pumps at the Bosselman Travel Center in Grand Island. As new fuel choices are offered at more retail locations, consumers become better acquainted with these options and the lower prices. These new pumps will distribute thousands of gallons of biofuels to the many travelers crossing our state.
International trade is another important key to growing biofuels. Last September, Todd Sneller of the Nebraska Ethanol Board and Duane Kristensen of Chief Ethanol in Grand Island joined my trade mission to Japan. There they visited with the U.S. Grains Council about the Japanese market, which has since opened to American ethanol. The U.S. Grains Council, which the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Nebraska Corn Board are members of, has been undertaking a major effort to expand exports into Japan. In 2015, I led another trade delegation to Denmark to visit the headquarters of Novozymes, a company that produces enzymes used in ethanol production. During the visit, we urged the company to continue to expand their investment in Nebraska. Since that visit, Novozymes has invested about $50 million more into Nebraska. These stories illustrate why it is so important that our global partners hear directly from Nebraskans on trade missions, so we can continue to open up more markets and attract new investments.
We have also been advocating with the federal government in Washington, D.C. to cut red tape and allow more freedom to market and use higher ethanol blends. Higher ethanol blends create more demand for our fuels and commodity inputs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the key regulator of biofuels at the federal level. Over the last year, we have been one of the voices calling for year-round sales of E-15. Right now, E-15 cannot be sold during the summer months, limiting our ability to market more of our ethanol product. I recently met with acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to underscore the urgency behind approving E-15 sales all year long. I also have a request into the EPA for a pilot program to test high ethanol blends like E-25 and E-30 in the Nebraska state government fleet. I have already directed state agencies to order flex fuel vehicles when possible and other vehicles must be compatible with E-15. The state has also switched over one of our main fuel pumps from E-10 to E-15, and we also have E-85 available. We want the opportunity to consume more of the great fuel produced right here in Nebraska.
This month, I submitted testimony on the latest round of biofuels production levels being set by the EPA. My administration will continue to urge the EPA to maintain a robust commitment to biofuels, so the next generation of farm families has the predictability they need to grow agriculture and grow Nebraska. If you have suggestions on how we can expand ethanol in Nebraska, I hope you will write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2244.
Pete Ricketts is governor of the State of Nebraska.