New fuel blend expanding

Published: Sep. 18, 2019 at 5:49 PM CDT
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You'd be hard pressed to find a gas station in North Dakota that doesn't sell an ethanol blend.

And there's a new option on the way.

North Dakota is looking to add a fourth nozzle to the conventional gas pump. And it's coming at a crucial time for ethanol producers.

"The goal of the program is to partner with fuel retailers to offer Unleaded 88 to North Dakota drivers. It's E15, which is a combination 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline," said Deana Wiese, ND Ethanol Council executive director

To encourage stations to pick it up, the councils are funding a grant program for stores looking to add the option at the pump.

In August, President Donald Trump granted 31 small refinery biofuel waivers, which allows companies to not blend ethanol into their gasoline. Wiese says this is tampering with four of the 16 billion gallons worth of demand.

"We definitely need certainty back in the market. That's what the Renewable Fuel Standard provided. And the ethanol industry isn't asking for anything more," Wiese said.

That sentiment is also felt in the fields where corn farmers continue to see short and long term concerns.

"We're about three weeks behind on crop maturity. And so when we do get into combining, the corn will be wet. Maybe another additional expense for the ethanol plants are gonna be equipped to dry that wet corn and maybe help the farmers out that way," said Rick Schmidt, NDSU Extension Agent.

Up to 60% of North Dakota's corn is used to make biofuels like ethanol. Making farmers a player in another policy game.

Schmidt says there should be a good corn market and yield this year, but he's concerned about whether ethanol plants will make a profit.