2017 Call to Action

by Dave Vander Griend, President of Urban Air Initiative

Last November I flew into India, a country suffering with some of the worst air pollution in the world. You can see the smog hanging over the city like a blanket.  I was there because India wants to increase its ethanol blending from E2.5 to E22. I thought about the hurdles they will encounter as they move toward that goal. But, I realized if they want to make it happen, it can be done like it has in Brazil, Paraguay, Thailand, and other countries using the same cars that we drive right here at home.

The United States has fortunately cleaned up much of our visual smog, but just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean many pollutants aren’t there. So, I started to think, what would it take to get the U.S. back to a leadership position in biofuel blending instead of just being an E10 follower?

The simple answer is to be able to put any ethanol blend, into any car, from any pump.

Now, I know saying it is much easier than getting it done. But what it does is takes us out of the box everyone tries to put us in and allows us to ask the question, why not? Every regulation, every rule making, every warning sticker is a made-up box that we find ourselves struggling to get out of.

The EPA finally allowing corn ethanol to meet the maximum of 15 billion gallons annually is certainly good news. At the same time, it is somewhat sobering, as this is as good as it will get in terms of what the RFS can provide as a demand driver. By 2022, when the RFS enters its next phase, the ethanol industry could be 130% of the production we are at today, with supply exceeding demand. This could cause RIN and ethanol pricing to decline if we are only trading in a fixed market.

It is no secret I have been ringing the alarm bell that we need to look beyond the RFS. Our blueprint for long term success requires us to develop a future where ethanol is given full access to the market and in so doing receives its full value for being a quality fuel.

This is where we may be able to capitalize on the new Administration and a new attitude in Washington. Removing the dozens of unnecessary and burdensome regulations that thwart higher blends and infrastructure investment is a message that is well received. Ethanol’s tried and true benefits of local job creation, benefiting agriculture, energy independence, engine performance, low carbon, and cleaner air have never been better positioned to flourish in a free market.

If you are like me, you want to see a plan to make this happen. I authored a White Paper in 2015 in which I offered a number of specifics. But as Urban Air gets deeper into the issues of ASTM, terminals, retailers, certification fuels, lifecycle analysis, emission testing, and fuel studies our list of unnecessary regulations has grown significantly. Then the question I ask myself is what does a free market look like and how do I know I’m there?

I look at our industry groups and see so much talent within the RFA, Growth, ACE, UAI, and the Grower and State Associations. I am committed in 2017 to continue working with each of these groups and call us to action around creating an extensive list of all the roadblocks limiting a free market. We can then prioritize them, split them up via our talents and eliminate them.

I have been in this situation many times, where a politician will ask what they can do for the industry. But I have yet to be able to hand them a comprehensive plan that is coming from a unified industry voice on how to get ethanol to a free market. Frankly, get us onto a level playing field, then the government can get out of the way and let us compete.

2017 is the year for the industry to pull together and grow beyond our dependence on DC. We can take control of our own destiny by truly gaining access to a free market where the consumer can choose the best fuel. If we are allowed to compete, ethanol will win.