As we emerge from the pandemic and the economy begins to rebound, I’m focused on ensuring the industries that provide Nebraska jobs can continue to grow and thrive.
The ethanol industry is one of those. Nationwide, it provides tens of thousands of Americans with good-paying jobs, and it indirectly supports at least 200,000 more. In Nebraska alone, the 25 ethanol plants spread across our state are able to produce more than two billion gallons a year, making us the second-largest producer of this renewable fuel.
Higher ethanol blends are also far better for the environment than traditional gasoline. Study after study has shown that the more ethanol you blend into your gas, the cleaner it burns. Any plan to reduce emissions has to make ethanol part of the solution.
But last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down an Environmental Protection Agency rule that allowed E15 – fuel that is 15 percent ethanol – to be sold year-round. Without this rule, E15 can only be sold from September to May in most areas of the country, leaving consumers with fewer choices during the busy summer months.
In their decision, the D.C. Circuit said that Congress didn’t intend for the EPA to apply this rule to E15. I recently introduced a bill to make it clear that we do.
The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, which I reintroduced with Senator Amy Klobuchar in response to the ruling, offers a common-sense solution to this problem. Our bill would reinstate the waiver that allowed high-ethanol blends like E15 to be sold all year. This would give consumers a wider array of options at the pump and provide ethanol producers with the certainty they need to do their jobs.
I have been working to bring this certainty to our producers for many years. In 2019, I traveled on Air Force One with President Trump to Iowa, where he announced the waiver that our bipartisan bill would reestablish. The president’s announcement came after he and I had several conversations where I highlighted the importance of year-round E15 to rural America. It also followed a hearing I pushed for in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where senators were able to talk about how year-round E15 would benefit their states.
From the Nebraska Farm Bureau to the Renewable Fuels Association, there is significant support for this bill. That is because it wouldn’t do anything radical, or even anything new. It would simply restore year-round E15.
However, there is one group who opposes reinstating this waiver: the oil industry. E15 is lower in carbon and easier on Americans’ wallets than regular gas, so it is no surprise that they want to prevent it from gaining too much market share. And after a separate Supreme Court ruling in June that threatens the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard, the main federal rule that promotes the use of ethanol, our producers can’t afford to suffer another setback.
I introduced the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act to let ethanol producers in Nebraska and across the country know that Congress has their back. Truly bipartisan wins for the environment, our producers, and consumers don’t come around often, and this is one of them.