ethanol

The U.S. EPA sets the level of ethanol that oil refiners must blend into the fuel supply.
File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

It was clear Thursday at a public hearing on ethanol policy, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tries to thread a very tricky needle when it establishes renewable fuel plans.

The EPA in May proposed modest increases in the amount of renewable fuels it will require oil refiners to blend into the U.S. gasoline and diesel supply next year – a total of 18.8 billion gallons, up from 18.11 billion gallons this year.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Financial problems at one of the world’s leading biofuels companies are causing ripples in the Kansas economy.

The Spanish company, Abengoa Bioenergy, opened a state-of-the-art ethanol plant in October 2014 near Hugoton. Gov. Sam Brownback greeted the grand opening as a shot in the arm for the Kansas economy.

“It does create jobs,” Brownback said at the time. “It creates opportunities, and right now we are seeing a rural renaissance in Kansas.”

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The amount of ethanol blended into the U.S. fuel supply will go up under new rules issued Monday.

In releasing the details of the Renewable Fuel Standard, the policy that sets the amount of biofuels oil refiners must blend into the fuel supply, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it planned to continue to increase the proportion renewable fuels, most of which is comprised of corn ethanol.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Five months after its grand opening, a massive new-generation ethanol plant in the southwest corner of Kansas is undergoing final adjustments as it prepares to begin full-scale production. The plant, built by a Spanish company with financing from the U.S. Department of Energy, is designed to produce clean-burning fuel — not from corn, but from the bits and pieces of crops left in farmers’ fields after harvest.

The federal government proposed Friday to cut the amount of corn-based ethanol oil companies have to put in the gasoline supply, by more than a billion gallons. Much of the corn used to make that ethanol is grown right here in the Midwest. 

Cutting the amount of corn ethanol required in the Renewable Fuel Standard essentially puts a cap on demand for corn from the Midwest.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture is proposing a rule change that would allow more ethanol to be blended into gasoline sold in the Show-Me State.

EthanolEnzyme
Grant Gerlock / NET

Inside a new facility in Blair, Neb., north of Omaha, a gleaming maze of steel tubes connect a line of giant fermentation tanks that will cultivate some of the most advanced biotechnology in the ethanol industry.

Eric Durban / Harvest Public Media

Drive by a field that’s ready for biomass harvest and you’ll think you’re too late. The grain is gone and it’s just broken stalks and leaves everywhere.

About half the gasoline sold in the U.S. today contains 10 percent ethanol.

But the ethanol industry, arguing that a 15 percent blend (E-15) is safe for all cars, last year asked the Environmental Protection Agency to approve a higher level of ethanol in fuel.