Next Generation Fuels Act recognizes ethanol as key to clean, affordable energy future

October 4, 2023

We know the story of ethanol.

It’s a renewable energy. It does double duty for the environment, with its ability to cut down on carbon emissions and its feedstock foundation coming from farmers who can sequester carbon.

It’s also good for the economy. Ethanol is a value-added product that creates rural jobs. For example, corn going to an ethanol production facility becomes more than just ethanol. On average, 1 bushel of corn produces 2.9 gallons of denatured fuel ethanol and 15.1 pounds of distillers grains used to feed livestock in addition to other co-products.

Ethanol makes gas cheaper at the pump for both rural and urban consumers, and it reduces the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil.

But of the 134.55 billion gallons of finished motor gasoline consumed in the U.S. in 2021, only about 13.92 billion were ethanol, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates.

So why is the U.S. not using more of this U.S.-produced renewable fuel?

The answer is complex and multifaceted, says Doug Durante, executive director of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition. Much of the issue, he adds, lies in a series of interconnected obstacles that in the past have only been addressed piece by piece—never holistically, until now.

The bipartisan Next Generation Fuels Act, which was introduced in March to the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Angie Craig (D-MN), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Nikki Budzinski (D-IL), and others, aims to phase in higher gasoline octane levels through the greater use of ethanol. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate. 

“What I like about this legislation is that it identifies and systematically knocks down the obstacles,” Durante says.

And, it does not create new mandates or tax incentives. Instead, it focuses on removing barriers and opening up the market, making it easier for fuel manufacturers to add ethanol—if they choose—to make their product more affordable.

“Ethanol has proven over time to be an excellent fuel choice for U.S. consumers, and ethanol has been a positive contributor to the economic vitality of rural America,” says Bart Ruth, a Nebraska corn and soybean farmer who serves on the board of directors for Solutions from the Land. “This legislation will help reduce the impediments that prevent ethanol from reaching its full potential in meeting our energy needs and simultaneously helping with environmental goals.”

In an CFDC issue brief, Durante summarizes the bill’s key provisions, saying it would:

  • Increase octane in gasoline.
  • Ensure a role for ethanol in that increase.
  • Require auto warrantees for higher blends.
  • Ensure accuracy in emissions/testing/certification of fuels.
  • Revise studies on fuel effects.
  • Ensure equipment compatibility.
  • Require vapor pressure parity.
  • Ensure greenhouse gas reductions.
  • Revise Efficiency Calculation of Dual Fuel Vehicles.

“The Next Generation Fuels Act addresses the whack-a-mole problem ethanol has had throughout its history,” Durante writes. “This legislation, for the first time, reflects a thoughtful analysis of what has kept the United States from freeing itself from being captive to what is essentially a mandate that we depend on petroleum for 90% of our transportation fuel.”

Solutions from the Land supports the Next Generation Fuels Act and its holistic approach to uncovering and addressing issues that have historically made ethanol less competitive in the market. Market solutions that benefit farmers will ultimately benefit all of society.

More Like This From Our BLog

Our Vision

An Agricultural Renaissance, led by innovative and entrepreneurial farmers, ranchers and foresters constructing sustainable, profitable and resilient systems that lay the foundation for a world of abundance on many scales capable of producing nutritious food, feed, fiber, clean energy, healthy ecosystems, quality livelihoods, and strong rural economies.