Biofuel industry worries about missing out on busy travel season

(NTV News)

As millions of Americans hit the road, supporters of an important Nebraska industry fear they could miss out on the busy driving season.

Nebraska is number two for ethanol, and supporters say government red tape is holding them back.

It's pretty common to see gas mixed with 10 percent ethanol; however, the Environmental Protection Agency said any car newer than 2001 can use higher blends - up to 15 percent ethanol.

But the catch is, the government doesn't allow that without a waiver.

During a recent visit to Nebraska, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made it clear where President Donald Trump stands.

"The president has given direct instructions to do the E-15 waiver, so it could be sold 12 months out of the year," Perdue said. "It's not good business practice to have something you can only use 8-9 months a year at a service station."

The head of an ethanol industry group in Nebraska said the policy is moving in the right direction.

But unfortunately for them, they may miss out on the busy travel season.

"By law, by rule, those E-15 pumps that are running right now with no problem would need to be relabeled or locked," said Troy Bredenamp, executive director of Renewable Fuels Nebraska. "Just because of a regulatory glitch. We'd like to see this remedied before we get too far into the summer driving season so we don't lose that season as well as everything else that's happened to ethanol demand over the last 2-4 months."

For corn growers, higher ethanol blends could increase demand for corn.

For the plants, higher blends would support jobs at 25 plants across the state, many in small communities.

And while the ag secretary is supportive, he doesn't call the shots.

It's under the control of the EPA, and it's not clear when they can get a deal finalized.

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