ethanol

There could soon be a different kind of fuel going into trucks and planes, one that could help farmers and create rural jobs.

It’d come from sorghum: a grass grown around the world, but increasingly so in states like Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds was in Ypsilanti, Michigan today pleading with the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of the Iowa farmers who produce renewable fuels.

The EPA is considering rules for 2019 for the Renewable Fuel Standard governing how much ethanol and biodiesel must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

The proposed rules would set the conventional ethanol level at the maximum 15 billion gallons, and increase the requirements for biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s message to Midwestern farmers this week is a mixed bag, telling them that the agency will be changing an Obama-era rule regarding water regulations but is pausing a plan to expand summer sales of ethanol.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Corn growers, ethanol producers, and oil companies are anticipating an announcement from the Trump administration on possible changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which one Iowa senator says could undercut the president’s stated commitment to the law.

Ahead of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, candidate Donald Trump pledged his support for the RFS, a promise Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, expects the President to keep.

John Pemble / IPR file photo

The prospect of selling gasoline with more ethanol throughout the year remains alive, but likely won’t be approved in time for the upcoming summer driving season.

Most gasoline containing ethanol has no more than 10 percent. A blend with up to 15 percent, called E-15, is available in some places, but in certain markets sales are prohibited from June first through September 15.

In an ongoing push-pull between oil refiners and ethanol producers, President Donald Trump has indicated nationwide, year-round sales of E-15 could be in the works.

Amy Mayer/IPR file

Four Republican senators met with President Donald Trump today to discuss the renewable fuel standard.

Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley visited the White House along with Ted Cruz of Texas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Ernst says the meeting yielded neither changes Cruz was looking for nor guarantees for ethanol that would have pleased the Iowans.

Cruz has spent months requesting such a meeting, arguing changes to the renewable fuels law are needed to protect oil refiners. But Ernst says he hasn’t provided a concrete problem.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Republican and Democratic senators from top corn- and ethanol-producing states say their pressure helped prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from changing rules governing renewable fuel production.

But at least one senator, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, says President Trump was their ace in the hole against an EPA chief who has deep ties to the oil and gas industry.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds had phone conversations today with both President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt about a controversial proposal to scale back the Renewable Fuel Standard, reducing the mandate for Iowa-grown biofuels.    

Iowa politicians are putting a full-court press on the Trump administration, after the EPA proposed  reducing the volume of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol blended into gasoline.   

Reynolds called her conversation with the president “constructive and productive.”  

Flickr / National Renewable Energy Lab

Sen. Chuck Grassley had lunch Monday with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, on the same day he and a group of bipartisan senators sent Pruitt a letter urging him to not reduce the amount of biodiesel in the nation’s fuel supply for 2018.

Dean Borg/IPR

Iowa’s ethanol industry says it can help augment the nation’s fuel supplies, alleviating possible supply problems resulting from flooding of Texas and Gulf Coast oil refineries.

Gasoline prices in Iowa are up about 17 cents over the past week.  Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw says ethanol pump prices are holding steady.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media file photo

The Trump Administration is voicing its support for the ethanol industry, but without specifics it is hard to say what that means exactly for Midwest farmers.

In a letter to industry leaders gathered at the National Ethanol Conference, President Donald Trump said renewable fuels “are essential to America’s energy strategy.”

The president wrote that he aims to reduce the regulatory burden on the renewable fuels industry, but did not detail specific plans.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is expressing confidence that the new Donald Trump administration will be pro-ethanol, in spite of his recent pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Nominee Scott Pruitt is Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma.  

Pruitt has argued against the Renewable Fuel Standard in proceedings before the U.S. Supreme Court.   The RFS mandates ethanol blends in the nation’s fuel supply.

Branstad says Pruitt is a brilliant conservative lawyer.

Flickr / TumblingRun

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to boost the amount of ethanol blended into the nation’s fuel supply under new rules issued Wednesday.

The EPA finalized the rules governing ethanol production, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), for 2017, adding about 1.2 billion gallons in total renewable fuel. That’s an increase of about 6 percent year-over-year.

The Ethanol Effect

Oct 7, 2016
Clay Masters / IPR

A new PBS documentary focusing on the impact of ethanol production airs this weekend on Iowa Public Television. IPR's Clay Masters speaks with environmental and energy reporter David Biello about his new documentary "The Ethanol Effect". 

Rick Fredericksen/IPR file photo

A new study supports planting perennial grasses on current cropland as a way to reduce nutrient loss from farm fields.

 

Photo by Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

Thursday was not the day to switch places with Chris Grundler.

Grundler, the director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was in charge of the EPA's one in-person hearing about proposed changes to U.S. ethanol policy

Harvest Public Media file photo by Grant Gerlock

A major player in the U.S. ethanol market is filing for bankruptcy, following pressure from Midwest corn suppliers who say they're owed millions of dollars and financial troubles for the Spain-based parent company at home.

 

Amy Mayer / IPR

    

  After Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s victory in the Iowa Caucuses many are questioning the political importance of ethanol, an industry that has long held sway in the political scene of Iowa and much of the Midwest.

Iowa is the top-producer of ethanol, the corn-based fuel, in the country. With its status as the first state that gets a crack at the presidential contest, Iowa often brings renewable fuels into the political limelight.

Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad today defended his call for Republicans to vote against Texas Senator Ted Cruz in next week’s caucuses.  

Branstad objects that Cruz opposes ethanol mandates.  

Branstad typically does not endorse candidates in Republican races, and he says he’s sticking to that this year.

“I’m not backing any candidate,” Branstad says.  “I'm advocating on behalf of my state and renewable energy which is critically important to our state.”

Branstad has long urged all candidates to come to Iowa early and often.   But he says there are limits.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump voiced their support for ethanol at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona on Tuesday.

The candidates took aim the EPA for lowering the mandated amount of ethanol in the nation's fuel supply below targets set by congress in 2007. Iowa is the nation's leading producer of the renewable fuel, which in the U.S. is primarily made with corn. 

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

A proposed merger between two giants of American business, DuPont and Dow, could ultimately result in an agricultural company more focused on farmers than either is today.

At least that's one interpretation of the proposed $130 billion deal, which would create the biggest chemical company in the United States and the second largest in the world.

Flickr / Cathy Brown Brown

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, is siding with farmers on a renewable fuel rule. The EPA will increase the quantity of ethanol in the U.S. fuel supply above its initial proposal earlier this year, but many corn growers and other ethanol advocates are upset that the new level still falls short of what was originally projected back in 2007.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

The 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard created goals for increasing the amount of ethanol, biodiesel, and other greener fuels available in the United States. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced volume mandates under the RFS for 2014, 2015, and 2016, and while the ethanol level is better than some biofuels supporters feared, many in the Corn Belt are expressing disappointment.

Earlier this year, though, the EPA had floated a proposal that would have reduced ethanol even more.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

The amount of ethanol blended into the U.S. fuel supply will go up under new rules issued Monday.

In releasing the details of the Renewable Fuel Standard, the policy that sets the amount of biofuels oil refiners must blend into the fuel supply, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it planned to continue to increase the proportion of renewable fuels, most of which is comprised of corn ethanol.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

U.S. energy policy that effectively promotes corn ethanol is holding back a generation of more environmentally sound fuels, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

To grow corn for ethanol, farmers have been plowing up new land and fertilizing big crops. Some research says that means corn-based ethanol can have a larger carbon footprint than traditional fuel.

Photo by Amy Mayer

DuPont Industrial Biosciences has opened its cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada.

The company says when it reaches full capacity, the biorefinery will annually convert corn cobs, stalks and other waste left on fields after harvest into 30-million gallons of what is considered a "second generation" renewable fuel. Over the past decade, DuPont received more than $50 million in federal funds to bring its cellulosic technology to the marketplace.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Soon across Iowa, the Midwest, and parts of the west and south, it will be more convenient for drivers to fill their tanks with ethanol-blended gasoline. The USDA is providing $100 million in matching grants to 21 states, to expand the number of pumps that can dispense gasoline with higher blends of the bio fuel.

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harveset Public Media

The federal government’s complex set of rules meant to spur a renewable fuels industry has fallen behind one of its main goals: cut greenhouse emissions from gasoline.

Nearly a decade after the rules were drafted, low-carbon fuels have yet to arrive. The Environmental Protection Agency says it will propose tweaks to the nation’s ethanol policy by June 1, and the changes will mark a crucial point for the next generation of biofuels, which have so far failed to flourish.

Photo by Emily Guerin/Inside Energy

 

Ethanol is one of the most important industries in the Midwest, and it’s an industry about to change. The U.S. EPA says that by June 1 it will propose new targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, which dictates the amount of ethanol the oil industry has to blend into our gasoline.

The RFS has three main goals: prop up rural economies, reduce dependence on foreign oil and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector.

Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio file photo

Under pressure from the courts, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a timeline for when it will finalize renewable fuel volume requirements. The agency has yet to finalize its 2014 proposed amounts, which disappointed many in corn country.

Corn growers and fuel manufacturers need to know what the government requires under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Two petroleum groups brought a lawsuit against the EPA because of missed deadlines for those announcements. The agency has now released its intended timelines for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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