To D.C. and back

Kelly Nieuwenhuis of rural Primghar has traveled to Washington, D.C., six times in the last two years to push year-round E15. 

REGIONAL—The push for year-round E15 biofuel is ongoing, despite President Donald Trump’s announcement in October that it would be available.

Kelly Nieuwenhuis, a corn grower near Primghar and member of multiple corn and ethanol boards, said they are working to ensure E15 is available for vehicles on June 1.

E15 is a blend of fuel that is 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline.

It currently may only be sold November through May.

“We will continue to put pressure on the administration to keep it rolling,” he said. “The EPA said they would start the process in February. Sen. Chuck Grassley said there is no reason for them to drag their feet. They could get this done sooner. Why wait?”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to release a proposed rule on making E15 a year-round product in February and deliberate the process until May. This does not leave a lot of time for retailers to install E15 infrastructure, E15 supporters argue. Nieuwenhuis said the larger companies, with numerous gas stations, spend $250,000-$500,000 whenever they have to go through and relabel the E15 pumps.

Nieuwenhuis has traveled to Washington, D.C., six times in the last two years to push year-round E15. He said it became obvious that it was not going to get done without the executive branch stepping in.

“I talked to hundreds of legislators over the years and the majority of them told me it was a no-brainer,” Nieuwenhuis said. “It was clear the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works was not going to do because half of the members were from oil states. Sen. Joni Ernst has been a champion on the committee, and she did all she could, but she didn’t even bring it to a vote. She would rather have it not voted on than have it fail.”

Once E15 is available every month, Nieuwenhuis said it will be good for everyone, especially for the consumers who use the fuel over the winter and spring and then are cut off from it during the summer months.

“It was confusing and scared some people who were wondering if it damaged their cars,” Nieuwenhuis said.

The estimated impact the biofuel will have is varied, Nieuwenhuis said. It will be positive, but the more retailers, the better the results. The more demand for E15, the more usage producers will see from their corn.

“The trickle-down will be beneficial to commercial corn prices,” he said.

The amount of corn that Nieuwenhuis puts toward ethanol is 95 percent of his crop. He said the E15 announcement is a great steppingstone for the biofuel industry, for retailers and for auto companies looking to use more ethanol.

Biofuels come with benefits that Nieuwenhuis wants to make known, such as improved air quality.

“We need to promote the benefits of what we are producing here in rural America,” he said.