Local View: Look for more of a home-grown, renewable fuel

By Kim Clark

This piece was published in the Lincoln Journal Star on July 1, 2012. Kim Clark is director of biofuels for the Nebraska Corn Board.

Recently, we have seen gas prices on the rise in Nebraska mainly due to the shutdown of the refinery in Texas. In fact, gas prices from Oklahoma to Minnesota were on their way up even as the price of oil was moving down.

In Nebraska, we shouldn’t be subject to price changes due to a refinery when we have a homegrown renewable fuel in the form of ethanol. While most drivers can and do use E10, a 10 percent renewable fuel blend, there are more than 120,000 flex fuel vehicles on the road in Nebraska — and that number increases daily. Flex fuel vehicles can use a higher ratio of renewable fuel, allowing drivers to take advantage of ethanol blends such as E20, a blend of 20 percent ethanol and 80 percent gasoline, E30 and on up to E85.

Do you have a flex fuel vehicle? Many drivers are unaware they’re driving a vehicle that is flex fuel and are missing the opportunity to use higher renewable fuel blends. To find out if you have a flex fuel vehicle, look for a flex fuel emblem on your vehicle, a yellow gas cap, the words “flex fuel” or “E85” on your gas cap or door, check your owner’s manual or visit NebraskaCorn.org and download an FFV fact sheet.

A great benefit of using renewable ethanol is the cost savings. In a recent report by the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, ethanol saved American households an average of $1,200 last year and reduced gas prices in the Midwest by $1.69 per gallon. How? Because oil refiners don’t have the capacity to meet demand, and if the more than 13 billion gallons of ethanol produced in the United States last year were taken off the market, oil prices would go up and wholesale gas prices would soar. As high as gas prices are now, imagine prices jumping past $5.00 — and what that would do to our economy.

Other ethanol benefits include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, providing jobs in rural areas and increasing tax revenues at the local, state and national level. In 2010, for example, Nebraska’s ethanol industry directly created more than 1,300 jobs and has supported nearly 3,000 indirect jobs. Since ethanol production began, there has been more than $240 billion in household income in Nebraska and more than $50 million in tax revenue. Ethanol also has helped reduce our dependence on imported oil, keeping billions of dollars each year right here at home.

We are hopeful that by the end of the year, E15 will be available at fueling stations across Nebraska. E15 is approved for cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs model year 2001 and newer. About 65 percent of the vehicles on the road will be able to use E15, and they account for more than 80 percent of the fuel sold.

The increased use of flex fuel vehicles and the availability of E15 will allow drivers to save money at the pump while supporting their local economy and reducing their use of oil, all while using more of a renewable fuel produced right here in Nebraska.

So don’t be constrained by a refinery in Texas. Use Nebraska’s own homegrown and locally produced fuel, ethanol!

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