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Opinion: E15, homegrown opportunity Missouri can depend on

  

Did you know that the size of the domestic gasoline market in the U.S. is larger than the next 10 countries combined? That’s why growing the share of renewable fuels in Missouri’s gas tank represents the single biggest opportunity to grow our rural economy and drive dependable grain demand for family farmers.

Since early March, China has given a temporary boost to American farmers by purchasing more than 736 million bushels of U.S. corn. Last October, China also restarted buying ethanol after years of trade disputes. Those massive purchases helped lift corn prices and push the entire agriculture sector up. But can farmers continue to count on exports from China to grow demand over the long term? The answer is: We don’t need to — if we expand our use of biofuels.

As the Show-Me State, Missourians will rightfully want to see the facts with their own eyes. In this case, they speak for themselves. Missouri-grown ethanol is already a vital industry, boosting the rural economy and providing good-paying jobs. Missouri’s six ethanol plants provide a value-added market for thousands of family farmers. Together they support more than 5,700 jobs and contribute $4 billion annually to the state.

And the best way to grow that opportunity is by expanding access to E15 — a 15 percent renewable fuel blend made from grain grown right here in Missouri. Gasoline today is made up of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, commonly referred to as E10. Offering E15 at more fuel stations across the state represents an extraordinary opportunity to grow domestic markets for both renewable biofuels and grain while boosting incomes for local farm families — using the same vehicles and fueling infrastructure we have today.

Recent research shows that replacing E10 with E15 across Missouri could drive demand for an added 53 million bushels of local corn annually, with a farm gate value of $195 million. Switching fuels won’t happen overnight, but the data shows the potential of E15 for farmers in the near future.

E15 not only means more farm income — it promises new jobs and added investment in rural areas. It also means less dependence on future exports to China and unreliable subsidies from the federal government. In fact, the economic activity generated from shifting fully to E15 would add more than $370 million to Missouri’s GDP and household income by $110 million. It could also generate nearly $33 million in state and local tax revenue.

And the benefits don’t stop there: Higher ethanol blends like E15 reduce emissions and make our air cleaner. A comprehensive study showed ethanol reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent compared to conventional gasoline. Fully shifting to E15 across the state would cut nearly 350,000 metric tons of GHG emissions, the equivalent of removing more than 76,000 cars from Missouri roads every single year.

Ethanol also replaces harmful carcinogens and toxic additives in gasoline — making our communities healthier. Ethanol blends reduce toxic emissions and ultrafine particles up to 50 percent, benefiting densely populated urban neighborhoods that have disproportionately suffered from air pollution and related health risks. Because it doesn’t require new cars — and saves drivers money every time they fill up — E15 provides a cleaner fuel alternative that’s accessible and affordable for everyone.

Last month, the U.S. EPA, Kansas, and Missouri announced an agreement to update fuel requirements in the Kansas City metro area to allow E15 to be sold in the area year-round. State agencies and agriculture groups cheered the decision as a path to protect the environment, air quality, and human health.

This year, our state legislature has a chance to build on the benefits of biofuels by incentivizing sales of E15 across the state. Other Midwest states are working to support E15, and Missouri legislators are considering market-based incentives to spur even more fuel retailers to offer E15 — giving more consumers access to E15 at the pump.

E15 is much more than a way to protect farmers when grain exports fall flat. It can fuel opportunities and drive savings for all Missourians for decades to come.