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Growth Energy leader says RFS decision expected any day

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 11/21/2012 1:23 PM

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LYLE, Minn./ST. ANSGAR, Iowa — Growth Energy's vice president of development said the EPA decision on the Renewable Fuels waiver could come any day.

Kelly Manning of Growth Energy spoke Nov. 8 at an event at Absolute Energy, which straddles the Iowa-Minnesota state line at St. Ansgar and Lyle. The event was held to announce a partnership between New Holland and Growth Energy, of which Absolute Energy is a member. Manning was one of the featured speakers.

Growth Energy is working hard with the Fuels America Coalition to protect the RFS, which is attacked more than it's discussed these days, Manning said. The policy, put in place in the mid-2000s, is working.

"It's the one thing that has lessened our dependence on foreign oil," he said.

The policy has created and protected more than 400,000 jobs, reduced oil imports from the Persian Gulf by 25 percent since 2000 and added $500 billion to farm assets in the last five years, according to information from Growth Energy.

Several state governors, congressmen and agricultural groups, including the National Pork Producers Council, the National Chicken Council and the National Turkey Federation have called for a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard this year in light of the drought and resulting high feed costs.

Language in the RFS allows for a waiver and the Environmental Protection Agency will rule on the issue.

There is little agreement as to what effect granting the waiver will have on feed costs. Some say it will lower the cost of corn only to raise the price of soybean meal, which is often replaced in rations by corn distillers' grain.

Ethanol industry proponents say the market is working as ethanol use of corn is down 12 percent from early June as plants idle or shut down.

The ethanol industry is also in the midst of an oversupply situation, Manning said. The first six months of the year were tough for plants as blenders had purchased as much ethanol as they had room to store before the ethanol blender's credit expired at the end of 2011.

One way the industry is trying to expand the market for ethanol is by increasing demand. The industry filed a green jobs waiver to raise the blend wall from E10 to E15 back in 2009, Manning said.

The EPA has given the green light for the use of E15 in 2001 and newer vehicles, which is 75 percent of the cars on the road, but retailers are reluctant to put in pumps that won't serve all their customers. They are working around the challenges in this area, Manning said.

Ford and General Motors have gotten behind E15, announcing two weeks ago that E15 is approved for use in their 2013 and newer vehicles. Another positive for ethanol on the horizon is the increasing mileage standards, Manning said.

The Obama administration passed regulations to double the nation's fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025. That will require more octane, he said, and ethanol is the best, cheapest source of octane available. Ethanol's octane is 113.

Growth Energy is also working to improve ethanol's image among drivers.

They are in the second year of a six-year partnership with NASCAR, Manning said. When the partnership started, ethanol's support among the sport's 70 million fans stood at 41 percent favorable, he said. That figure has jumped 20 percent to 60 percent. All NASCAR cars run on E15 and American Ethanol is a competitive sponsor of the sport.

Manning asked the ethanol supporters gathered at Absolute Energy to support ethanol by writing or signing a letter to their representatives encouraging their support of ethanol; talking about the value of ethanol to their family, friends and the media; asking their input suppliers where they stand on ethanol and biofuels; and using social media to promote ethanol.