Ethanol Industry Wary of Potential Changes

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Currently 21 retailers in Indiana offer E15 fuel at the pump. Currently 21 retailers in Indiana offer E15 fuel at the pump.
INDIANAPOLIS -

The chief executive officer of an ethanol advocacy group says the industry is keeping an eye on potential changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor, who was in Indianapolis for the National FFA Convention & Expo, says a decrease in the required amount of ethanol in the nation's fuel supply could hurt states like Indiana. She says Indiana is the nation's fifth-largest producer of ethanol, with more than a dozen plants producing over a billion gallons per year.

"Indiana has more than a dozen ethanol plants that produce over a billion gallons of ethanol per year. That is a billion gallons used in our transportation fuel that displaces a billion gallons of foreign oil," said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. "That is great for the American economy, and really good for the economy in Indiana."

According to Skor, ethanol has a number of benefits not only for consumer's wallets but also for the environment. She says a higher blend of ethanol in motor fuel uses fewer toxic additives, burns cleaner and cooler than oil and perhaps most importantly, lowers the price at the pump by as much as five to ten cents per gallon.

"By using ethanol in our regular gasoline, we are cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half, as well as cancer-causing toxic additives," said Skor. "That is good for everyone because when you reduce the emissions we are able to breathe cleaner air."

Currently 97 percent of America's gasoline contains around 10 percent ethanol, but more options at the pump are becoming increasingly available.

"There is a fuel that is 15 percent ethanol, and 21 retailers in Indiana are offering it," said Skor. "And what we see is that consumers are continuing to go back for more."

The fuel Skor is referring to is called E15 and is currently available at retail gas stations in 29 states including Indiana. In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency approved E15 for use in cars made in 2001 or newer. 

"The EPA has certified that nine out of ten cars on the road can use fuel with 15 percent ethanol," said Skor. "Manufacturers are warrantying for this fuel because they understand that it is good for the engine."

In recent weeks, policy surrounding the ethanol industry has come into question.  

"There is a national fuel policy that says every year we have got to blend more biofuel," said Skor. "What we started to see over the course of several months this summer is that the Environmental Protection Agency was considering rolling back that standard, and setting targets for next year that were actually lower in many respects than the targets for this year."  

However, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, according to Skor, "pledged that he remains committed to making sure that this policy moves America forward." Something Skor says is extremely important not only for the U.S. economy but also for Hoosiers.

"At the end of the day, this has a direct impact on Indiana. As the fifth largest producer of ethanol, you want to continue to produce this commodity that will be used throughout the country. Forty percent of the corn grown in this state is used to make ethanol," said Skor. "This has a direct benefit in terms of jobs in this state, as well as for the consumer. You've got retailers selling fuel that is blended with even more than the standard amount of ethanol and so it is good for consumers and it is good for the local economy."

Skor says the future of the ethanol industry over the next five to ten years is continuing to push for higher blends of ethanol in fuel at the pump.

"Nationwide, the future really should be that standard gasoline is blended with 15 percent ethanol. When you do that, it increases the demand for ethanol by seven billion gallons nationally," said Skor. "So for the state of Indiana, that is money right back into the pocket book of Hoosier businesses. It is a win-win. Good for Indiana business and good for Indiana families and the consumer."

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