Why the E15 Whoopla? E30 Offers So Much More!
We may not have much control over the current markets. But, members of South Dakota Farmers Union, do have a say in policy development that can impact future markets, says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director as she invites members and supporters alike to join the conversation during the 2018 State S.D. Farmers Union Convention held in Pierre Nov. 29-30.
"We're a grassroots organization, so just like our policy, our convention agenda is also member-driven. We spend a lot of time listening to our members to help determine topics that will be discussed and who will be invited to present," explains Hofhenke.
Timely topics highlighted during convention include: truth in labeling, climate change's impact on rural America's economy, mental health issues among agriculture producers and the success story of Glacial Lake's Energy Cooperative E30 Challenge program.
Like so many issues this year, the USDA's discussion on whether or not to label lab-cultured tissue as "meat" directly impacts many South Dakota producers.
By Lura Roti, for SDFU
Growing up one of 12 on a ranch north of the South Dakota state line, Mike Maher has many fond memories.
"We did have a lot of fun. My brother next to me and I would hop on our horses in the morning and lope eight miles to help our cousins work cattle," says the third generation Ziebach County rancher. "We never knew what riding in a saddle was like - dad had the only saddle and we knew better than to touch it. We lived on a river, but none of us knew how to swim because our horses could swim. If we had to cross the river, Dad would always stand on the riverbank to make sure we all got across."
It could have been memories like these that impacted Mike's decision to follow in his dad's boots after high school - even though there wasn't room for him on his family's ranch.
He's not sure why he chose to be a rancher. But he does know this, "It's all I've ever done. And, I don't punch a time clock."
His youngest son, Wade, 35, can relate.
"I was working as a welder for the mines, managing a bunch of people who did not want to do their job and decided that I needed to get back to the ranch," explains Wade, who packed up his family and returned to ranch with his parents four years ago.
Wade's parents met at a dance when Mike was working on a ranch near Isabel.
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Lost in the celebration over the Trump Administration's recent announcement to allow year-round E15 sales was a decision by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that could have far greater impact on future ethanol demand, according to members of the Clean Octane Alliance a group recently formed by National Farmers Union, Farmers Union Enterprise, the Urban Air Initiative and the Clean Fuels Development Coalition to promote mid-level ethanol blends with a particular focus on the fuel economy and GHG rule proposed by the Trump Administration.
"We certainly appreciate the Trump pledge to address seasonal restrictions on E15 but it is critical to make sure this vapor pressure relief applies to all blends above 10 percent given the limited demand E15 would provide and the fact that blends like E30 will provide substantially greater health benefits at lower costs," said South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke.
Sombke, along with Urban Air Initiative President Dave VanderGriend said an update to the master list of future federal regulatory actions called the Unified Agenda does not include a previously proposed rule that would make any blends above E15 illegal to use in conventional vehicles. Known as the REGS (Renewable Enhancement and Growth) Rule, it would have codified a proposal that would have limited any future blends at a time when future vehicle efficiency requirements will need low carbon, high octane fuels that ethanol can provide in blends of 25-40 percent.
National Farmers Union and Urban Air Initiative led the effort to have the Renewable Enhancement and Growth rule dropped or modified and wrote then EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt informing him National Farmers Union would challenge this provision in court if necessary.
According to Sombke, future demand from E15 will likely be slightly more than 1 billion gallons over current levels in the next five years. He argues that would represent a new corn demand of just 300-400 million bushels that is not nearly enough to turn around the falling farm economy.
Moreover, said Sombke, the increase from E15 may not even cover the demand loss from the small refiner waivers being granted by EPA that have reduced the Renewable Fuel Standard requirements by more than 1 billion gallons. "I think the agriculture and ethanol industries were so focused on the Renewable Fuels Standard and related issues, that this provision limiting ethanol blends might have slipped by," Sombke said. "At National Farmers Union we recognize the future is in much higher blends, which is why we were all over EPA to pull back this ill-advised rule."
According to S.D. Farmers Union analysis, a new octane standard of 98-100, as is being discussed at EPA, could result in increased ethanol demand of 15 billion gallons and corn demand of 4 to 5 billion bushels.
Urban Air Initiative President Dave VanderGriend said ethanol blends in the 25-30 percent range can provide a significant octane boost and, more importantly, reduce the toxic carcinogens currently used by refiners to boost octane.
"We are demonstrating the effectiveness of E30 across the Midwest and the savings to consumers while protecting their health is tremendous. We are showing that conventional automobiles are performing perfectly with this cleaner, homegrown fuel and EPA has no grounds to limit the amount of ethanol we can use," VanderGriend said.
The Rule was moved from the pending action category to what they call "long term action," indicating it is unlikely to be brought forward. VanderGriend said they intend to monitor the situation but are encouraged that their efforts seem to have produced results.