Yesterday we told you about Indiana’s Senate Bill 303. Ethanol groups are seeking to stop its passage by asking Governor Eric Holcomb to veto the bill. Indiana Farm Bureau and CountryMark, however, are asking the governor to sign it into law.
INFB Associate Director for Policy Engagement Jeff Cummins says the process of SB 303 started a couple of years ago.
“It was around that time we realized our definition of gasohol was outdated. It was a reference to a federal tax code which defined gasohol as E10 or less. And so, there was some concern, not amongst all but amongst some refiners and retailers, that that would limit their ability to effectively sell E15 year-round. Now, we know some did, and so it was not a concern across the board- I want to be clear about that- and then we needed some additional alignment on those Reid vapor pressure levels, in particular the ones regulated at the state level.”
Legislators though wanted consumer protection and were asking for a label. Cummins says that while they preferred for there not to be an additional label, that was the compromise made to move forward with the bill to change the necessary language.
“We thought, and our theory was, if this gives any refiner or retailer the additional certainty they need on gasohol, on RVP, to move more ethanol, that’s ultimately a good. So, we tried to say let’s not miss the forest through the trees, what’s the ultimate goal, and that is to crush more corn, burn more ethanol. So, we thought that if any refiner or retailer was given the certainty they needed there, that would be a good thing.”
CountryMark, a farmer owned cooperative, is also in support of SB303. “We are and have been proponents of Senate Bill 303 for one simple reason: it will enable us to buy, blend and sell more ethanol,” said CountryMark President and CEO Matt Smorch.
This is the third year CountryMark has approached the Indiana General Assembly asking elected officials to make the changes necessary to enable the year round sale of Unleaded 88, also known as E15, which is gasoline that contains 15 percent ethanol. CountryMark’s stance is that for E15 to be sold year-round in the state of Indiana, it is necessary that the state modify its definition of gasohol from fuels that contain up to 10 percent ethanol to include fuels that contain up to 15 percent ethanol. This change in how gasohol is defined allows E15 to qualify for a gasoline vapor pressure waiver, which is afforded today to fuels that contain a 10 percent blend of ethanol.
As CountryMark made plans to approach the General Assembly, the farmer owned cooperative reached out to the Indiana Department of Agriculture, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Indiana Farm Bureau and the Indiana Corn Growers Association to gain consensus for this long-term energy vision. This winter, CountryMark also met with numerous state legislators answering questions they had regarding ethanol-blended fuels.
“We are aware there are organizations that are uncomfortable with the E15 label component of this bill,” said Smorch. The proposed state E15 label asks consumers to consult their owner’s manual to confirm that the fuel they are about to purchase will not void the warranty of their vehicle.
“From our experience, a word of caution on a fuel dispenser will not reduce the demand for E15,” said Smorch. “It has been our experience that transparency leads to consumer trust, which is the foundation of consumer loyalty.”
Despite the difference in opinion regarding SB 303, Cummins says ag groups need to come together for future opportunities.
“We need to look past this moment in time and we need to build a bridge amongst the coalition of liquid fuels and agriculture because, at the end of the day and longer term, it’s us versus electric vehicles. So, liquid fuels need to be as united as possible. We hope that we can begin conversations over the summer and fall on what other initiatives we can take on that would be productive and beneficial for biofuels.”
Cummins explains the background of the bill and their rationale for supporting it in our interview below.