RAPID CITY, S.D. -- A group of South Dakota ethanol supporters is taking out an advertisement in the Rapid City Journal when President Donald Trump visits for an event at Mount Rushmore on July 3. They want the president to increase ethanol blends in gasoline from the current 10% ethanol to 30% ethanol.
Supporters of changing the “blend wall,” led by the South Dakota Farmers Union, say the move would have an $8 billion potential economic impact on the South Dakota economy if “illegal regulatory barriers are removed.”
“With a stroke of his pen, Mr. Trump can tear down that (blender) wall by directing his (Environmental Protection Agency) to enforce laws now on the books,” said SDFU President Doug Sombke, whose family farms in the Groton, S.D., area, east of Aberdeen.
South Dakota has been a national leader in commercializing 30% ethanol blends, promoters said in a news release calling attention to the ad campaign. The release says ethanol plays a critical role in providing clean-burning high-octane, low-carbon fuels.
“With demand for agriculture products hit hard by trade wars and the coronavirus, increasing ethanol volumes would provide a much-needed boost to farmers throughout the Midwest,” Sombke said. “Farmers don’t want taxpayer handouts -- we want the ability to compete freely in the gasoline marketplace,” Sombke continued. “For an administration that prides itself on removing ill-conceived and burdensome regulations, this should be a no-brainer.”
Sombke said the EPA has authority to increase octane in gasoline, which would provide a huge boost to ethanol. “It also has the legal obligation to substantially reduce the toxic, carbon-intensive, oil-based compounds refiners currently use for octane,” he said.
The National Farmers Union and a number of biofuel and environmental groups are challenging EPA in court to reverse its refusal to increase octane.
SDFU and other promoters point to the “strong leadership” of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem who declared Feb. 25 as “E30 Day” in the state. Noem is part of a group of Midwest governors implementing EPA-approved E30 demonstration programs in their state fleets.
Jim Seurer, chief executive officer of of Glacial Lakes Energy, based in Watertown, S.D., and the SDFU, since 2016 have staged an annual “E30 Challenge,” which encourages the public to try 30% ethanol blends, which are higher than the 10% blends found in regular gasoline.
Ethanol promoters have lobbied the EPA, citing the Clean Air Act. The change “would significantly reduce fine particulates that may be carriers of the COVID-19 virus,” say the proponents, which include the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, National Farmers Union, Renewable Fuels Association, Dakota AG Energy, Biofuels Coalition, Clean Fuels Foundation, Environmental & Energy Study Institute, Glacial Lakes, and presidents of state Farmers Union groups in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana.
They argue that “new science” from Argonne National Laboratories, U.S. Department of Agriculture and others confirms that “high-yield corn” with deep roots add to soil organic matter, sequestering “millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year, equivalent to taking tens of millions of cars off the roads.”
Proponents weren’t immediately available to say whether the America Farm Bureau Federation, or state Farm Bureau organizations who are more often aligned with Republican politics, were asked to be involved in the advertisement effort.
Scott VanderWal, a farmer from of Volga, S.D., president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, en route to the event at Mount Rushmore on July 3, said he wasn’t aware of the ad campaign. He said his organization works through the EPA and administration to foster ethanol-friendly policies and is supportive of increasing ethanol mixes to 30%.
“Honey works better than vinegar,” VanderWal said.