E30 pump

LINCOLN, Neb. — Just weeks after a bioenergy victory with the approval of year-round 15 percent ethanol (E15), Nebraska already is looking beyond.

EPA has issued a one-year waiver so the State of Nebraska can conduct research with E30 in 50 state vehicles used by state personnel and some Nebraska State Patrol cruisers.

“Twenty-five will run on E30 and 25 on E10 or E15, so we can compare,” said Roger Berry, new administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board. “At the end of the year, engineers can compare emissions, engines and the differences between the two.”

The E30 Demonstration Program began June 3 and will end June 3, 2020.

“There may be occasions when E30 isn’t available,” said Berry, who is experienced in the ethanol industry because of former positions with the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Farm Bureau. “Drivers will keep track so the engineers know.”

The cars are metered so whenever they come in for service, the monitors will be read so engineers can observe throughout the year, Berry said.

Berry has participated in an agriculture automobile working group that meets yearly in Detroit with the aim to make a better automobile.

“But they need more octane to do it,” Berry said. “Ethanol is the cheapest and cleanest octane available. ... It’s been found the sweet spot is between 25 percent and 30 percent.”

Automakers are concerned about supplying fuel for the fleet four or five years down the road, he said. The testing “will show what today’s vehicles can run on and will negate the concerns auto manufacturers have.

“Research has been done and the sexy thing now is electric, but we’re still going to have the internal combustion engine around for some time.”

Historically, trusting test findings has been difficult.

“The American public has been lied to for the last 40 years because oil companies don’t want to give up,” Berry said. “But it’s time for the American consumers to realize they’ve been lied to.”

Berry said to remember when gasoline contained lead.

“The oil companies said, ‘No, it’s safe’ but that was proven wrong. Then when it switched to MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), they said it was safe, but see what it did to our water.”

MTBE was proven to be toxic. States started banning its use in gasoline in the late 1990s and turned more to ethanol.

“Now they say ‘we can provide our own octane, we don’t need ethanol,’” he continued, “but they do it with Benzene, Toluene and Xylene. Benzene is a known carcinogenic.”

Lead was blended with gasoline since the early 1920s. In 1975, passenger cars and light trucks were manufactured with a more elaborate emission control system that required lead-free fuel. In 1995, leaded fuel accounted for only 0.6 percent of total gasoline sales. Effective Jan. 1, 1996, the Clean Air Act banned the sale of the small amount of leaded fuel that was still available in some parts of the country for use in on-road vehicles.

“The more ethanol we use, the more we displace chemicals in the air,” Berry said. “Medical bills would be less because we’d be breathing cleaner air.”

About 7 percent of the automobile fleet changes out every year, he added. Studies show the current feedstock — mostly corn used to produce ethanol — could provide ethanol for E30 and still have enough for feeding livestock and ethanol exports.

“Nobody is going hungry,” Berry said.

Enough confusion remains in the use of ethanol that more education is needed.

California’s low-carbon fuel standard is helping to increase more use of higher blends of ethanol.

“You can’t convince them all, but we’re making gains,” he said. “E15 shows that.”

Terry Anderson can be reached at terry.anderson@lee.net.