This is a guest editorial, provided to NCGA by Geoff Cooper - President and CEO, Renewable Fuels Association.
At the Renewable Fuels Association, our “reason for being” is really quite simple: Build new markets and grow demand. In fact, RFA’s mission statement is crystal clear on this point: Drive expanded demand for American-made renewable fuels and bioproducts worldwide.
We know this cannot be accomplished alone. We realize building demand for ethanol and its coproducts is important not just for RFA’s ethanol producer members, but also for those who supply them—our nation’s corn farmers. For this reason, we are extremely grateful for our strong and long-standing relationship with NCGA and our ability to collaborate on important demand creation programs.
The recent collaboration on the USDA’s Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program is one of the best examples of our work together. With support from the corn growers, RFA was able to assist three dozen retailer chains with the exhaustive grant application process. The result? A 100% success rate for the applicants! These applications cover more than 200 retail locations across 21 states that collectively sell more than 250 million gallons of gasoline annually. In total, RFA provided services and assistance for $21 million in grant requests which are now being fulfilled by USDA. When matched with another $31 million in private funding, this represents a total investment in higher blends infrastructure of more than $52 million.
RFA strongly believes in providing consumers with more fuel options, and we know that, while E10 has been the de facto regular fuel for some time, now is the time to evolve to higher ethanol blends. As automakers seek greater fuel efficiency and as the public grows increasingly concerned about environmental health, America needs a homegrown, clean fuel that is higher in octane and lower in carbon emissions. Higher blends of ethanol are the most promising way to move rapidly into this greener future. But we can’t modernize our engines and fuels unless we also modernize our refueling infrastructure. That’s why programs like HBIIP and NCGA’s partnership with Wayne Fueling Systems are so important.
The next step on the road to high-octane, low-carbon fuels is E15. Presently, only a few states remain as holdouts on approving the use of E15. Again with your support and collaboration, RFA is working diligently on a testing program to secure E15 approval in California, the nation’s largest fuel market. This work includes auto exhaust emissions testing on late-model cars at the University of California at Riverside, followed by evaporative emissions testing to prove that E15 is the best blend for the Golden State. Again, this work would not be possible without the help of corn checkoff support and staff expertise.
Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of the support RFA received from NCGA and state organizations when the time came to take the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to court over small refinery exemptions. After all, protecting the RFS means protecting demand for both ethanol and corn. It is no exaggeration to say that our victory in January’s Tenth Circuit Court decision in RFA et al. v. EPA may finally mean the death of the small refinery exemptions that have been eroding RFS requirements. This wasn’t the first time RFA and NCGA partnered on litigation to safeguard our markets, and it likely won’t be the last.
Believe it or not, RFA is entering its 40th year in operation in 2021. That means we’ve been working arm-in-arm with corn growers for four decades to build demand and create opportunities for rural America. We’ve come a long way together, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with NCGA to expand and create markets for decades to come.