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August 26th, 2019

roger marshall mugshotGUEST COLUMN, Dr. Roger Marshall, Big First District Rep.


As co-chair of the House Biofuels Caucus, I have actively supported efforts to approve year-round sale of E15 fuel, because of its advantages to Kansas agriculture, the environment, and the Kansas economy.

On May 31, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the final rule, which allows gasoline blended with up to 15 percent ethanol to be sold during the summer driving season. First, it removes a key regulatory barrier by extending the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to E15. Secondly, it provided clarity and rules on Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), ensuring more market transparency and increasing EPA oversight. 

Ethanol production has become staple of the Kansas economy. The first commercial E15 pump was debuted nationally at a Kansas retail station in 2012, and Kansas remains a top ten ethanol-producing state.  Kansas currently has ten fuel-grade ethanol plants which produce over 550 million gallons of ethanol annually, worth $886 million. The ethanol industry contributes greatly to the state, paying almost $9 million in property taxes each year, boosting local economies and public schools, while receiving no ethanol-specific state subsidies. These production facilities each employ around 45 people at an average salary of around $60,000. 

Kansas agriculture and rural communities will see an economic boost from the new ruling. The ethanol industry sustains a higher price of Kansas crop commodities, purchasing 44 percent of all corn and 30 percent of all sorghum grown in the state. E15 sales are estimated to double in 2019 over 2018 sales, significantly increasing demand for locally grown feedstocks. Demand for American grain will increase by an estimated two billion bushels as a result. Livestock producers will benefit also, as dry distillers grains (DDGs), the by-product of ethanol production, are fed as high-nutrient livestock feed. 

Nationally, the ethanol industry drives $44 billion in economic activity and nearly $9 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues. An expansive foreign market provides producers even greater opportunities. The US continues to be a net exporter of fuel-grade ethanol, exporting over 33 million barrels of fuel ethanol in 2017.  I support opening markets for ethanol abroad and increasing access to low-cost fuel at the pumps for consumers in the US. 

Allowing the private sector to bring E15 to market year-round not only provides a high quality, lower cost choice to consumer and protects American interests, but it also improves the environment. Ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollutants found in gasoline. The crops grown for ethanol feedstocks – including corn and sorghum – absorb and recycle the carbon dioxide that is released when the renewable fuel is produced and combusted, reducing carbon emissions by up to 39 percent. Left to private innovation, we can achieve a cleaner environment. 

Beyond those who produce the inputs and final ethanol product, the broader economy benefits from the recent ruling. The E15 RVP waiver approves the use of E15 in all vehicles built since 2001. On the consumer level, blending ethanol with gasoline lowers fuel prices, providing another low-cost, high-octane choice at the pump. On the market scale, ethanol lessens the impacts of world petroleum market shocks and reduces American demand for foreign oil.

I applaud EPA Administrator Wheeler and the Trump Administration for finalizing the rules on E15, which will give consumers more choices, improve our environment, and provide long-term opportunities for Kansas agriculture and ethanol producers.

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