Corn Boards to Spend $1.25M on CA E85

Corn Checkoffs in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri Invest in E85 Infrastructure

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Environmental Editor
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State corn checkoff groups in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri announced a $1.25 million investment to expand E85 availability in California. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Corn Board)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- State corn checkoffs in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri announced they are investing $1.25 million to help expand E85 availability in the state of California.

Under the low-carbon fuel standard in California, ethanol and E85 have accounted for the majority of fuels used to comply with the law.

The Nebraska Corn Board announced in a news release on Wednesday plans to provide the funds to retailers across the state, to expand E85 infrastructure.

Fuel will be supplied by Pearson Fuels, which is the largest E85 distributor in California, with nearly 250 retail stations located throughout the state.

Corn growers from the three corn checkoff groups met with representatives from Pearson Fuels in San Diego in July to explore the potential for expanding E85. California already is the largest E85 market in the country, accounting for over 40 million gallons in 2020 and is on track to reach 50 million gallons in 2021.

According to the Nebraska Corn Board, corn growers toured retail sites in Los Angeles that included two stations previously funded by the Nebraska Corn Board.

"These stations are moving a tremendous volume of E85," said John Greer, Nebraska Corn Board District 2 director. "One station alone would use about 50,000 bushels of corn in the form of ethanol in just a year. The investment is already proving worthwhile for our corn growers."

Greg Jones, director of business development for Pearson Fuels, said in a news release California remains underdeveloped for E85. Though the state has 39.5 million people it has fewer E85 stations than Iowa and Minnesota.

The announcement comes at a time when the Biden administration is putting an emphasis on expanding electric-vehicle availability as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

On a national level, biofuels groups have been pushing the Biden administration to invest more in ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels because they are already widely available.

At the end of 2020, there were about 370,000 electric vehicles in California, or about 1.3% of all light-duty vehicles on the road.

By comparison, more than 1.1 million California drivers own flexible-fuel vehicles, and there still is more than 25 million other cars on the road using non-flex fuel, internal combustion engines.

"The ceiling is high for E85," Greer said, "but FFVs and E85 need to be more widely available."

While California's LCFS continues to incentivize vehicles powered by electricity or hydrogen, ethanol has reduced more greenhouse gas emissions than any other fuel, according to data from the California Air Resources Board.

"Our ethanol will continue to be a low-carbon, high-octane fuel that offers Californians immediate benefits," said Kent Moore, Kansas Corn Commission president. "Flex-fuel vehicles using cleaner burning and more affordable E85 can be widely deployed there to meet the state's goals quicker than any other technology."

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order last fall to require all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

Ron Lamberty, senior vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, said in a news release Pearson Fuels offers retailers an easier path toward investing in E85.

Pearson pays a lower portion of the equipment cost for retailers because they offer them turn-key entry into the E85 market by taking care of the regulatory challenges of adding E85 in California. Pearson also handles all of the Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs, and California Air Resources Board credits to supply what is a competitively priced E85, Lamberty said. That has driven increases in E85 volumes made available during the past several years.

"The volume is great all by itself," Lamberty said. "If the low prices and greater visibility get the attention of California regulators and elected officials, it could make it easier to make the case for E85 as a low- to net-zero carbon fuel right now and into the future."

Read more on DTN:

"Ethanol: Fuel for the Future?,"…

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Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
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