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Year-Round Ethanol Gas Blends Would be Boon for Farmers

Corn producers hope the Environmental Protection Agency can finalize a rule on ethanol blending in time for the summer driving season. (Sweeter Alternative/Flickr)
Corn producers hope the Environmental Protection Agency can finalize a rule on ethanol blending in time for the summer driving season. (Sweeter Alternative/Flickr)
March 18, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. – Farmers see a fresh crop on the rise with the federal government's proposal to allow ethanol-blended gasoline to be sold year-round.

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a rule change that would lift the summertime prohibition on use of E15, or gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol.

The ban was put into place because of concerns that the blends contribute to smog.

But Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, says those findings are out of date and restrict biofuels. He thinks this proposal would be good for farmers.

"This would create more demand and it would convert more corn into ethanol, maybe help the corn prices,” Watne explains. “And then, of course, if we could even take that further up to E30, we'd get a much better blend, a lot cleaner emissions and then that would be a huge demand increase that would really help farmers."

Farmers unions are hoping the rule can be finalized in time for the summer driving season.

The ethanol blending ban goes into place on June 1 and lasts through Sept. 15.

Ethanol advocacy group Growth Energy says adopting this rule could increase corn demand by 2 billion bushels.

Some conservation groups are raising concerns about increased carbon pollution from agricultural production of biofuels. But Watne highlights the tight spot farmers are in right now, starting with waivers for ethanol blending given out to oil refineries that have hurt demand.

"And then we have this huge trade war that's going on,” he points out. “It's not resolved with Canada and Mexico yet. We have a huge one with China. And even though we talk about soybeans, with the price of soybeans being down, it drags the price of corn, wheat and all our other commodities down."

Comments on the proposal must be submitted to the EPA by April 29. The agency will hold a public meeting on the proposal on March 29 in Michigan.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND