Government Overreach? State Lawmakers Advance Bill Requiring Gas Stations to Sell Fuel with 15% Ethanol

By B.N. Frank

While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other renewable-energy proponents consider ethanol to be good for the environment, some environmentalists do not.  In fact, there is research that has indicated it isn’t at all eco-friendly.  Nevertheless, there’s a lot of corn grown in Nebraska so lawmakers want to mandate that more ethanol is sold at gas stations.


Nebraska lawmakers advance bill requiring gas stations sell fuel with 15% ethanol

Erin Bamer

LINCOLN — Nebraska lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday that would require gas stations in the state to offer gasoline blended with up to 15% ethanol.

Legislative Bill 562 cleared the first of three rounds in a 32-1 vote, after a total of eight hours of debate. Supporters said the bill would help Nebraska farmers; opponents described it as government overreach.

Corn is one of the largest components of Nebraska’s agriculture industry, and ethanol makes up one of the biggest shares of that. According to the Nebraska Corn Board, the state’s 24 ethanol plants use more than 750 million bushels of corn annually. The plants are able to produce over 2 billion gallons of the fuel, and Nebraska is the nation’s second-largest ethanol producer.

Even so, State Sen. Myron Dorn of Adams said, Nebraska is ranked near the bottom in the U.S. in terms of ethanol usage, with much of its ethanol being exported to other states. Dorn, who introduced LB 562, said requiring that 15% ethanol fuel top be offered at gas stations will benefit the farmers who produce the fuel.

“We should be showing that we can support our farmers,” Dorn said.

Many gas stations in Nebraska already offer gasoline blended with up to 10% ethanol. Several opponents said the requirements in LB 562 amount to a government mandate on businesses; Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha said the conservative lawmakers who support the bill are hypocritical.

“We say we don’t like big government,” Wayne said.  “We say we don’t like mandates. But we do when it fits us.”

Although the only dissenting vote to advance the bill came from Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, a Democrat, a number of Republican lawmakers were present but not voting. They included Speaker of the Legislature John Arch and Sens. Carolyn Bosn, Ben Hansen, Jana Hughes, Merv Riepe and Brad von Gillern.

Dorn pushed back against the criticism that LB 562 was a government mandate, noting the bill contains exemptions for businesses that would need to spend more than $15,000 to make the changes and those who sell low amounts of fuel per year, among other provisions.

Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings said he did see the bill as a mandate — but still supports it as a conservative because it will help Nebraska’s biggest industry and will give drivers more choices at the pump.

Other supporters said that more ethanol production in Nebraska would create jobs and reduce the price of gas. They also said it is a cleaner form of energy that will reduce the state’s dependence on oil.

“Anytime we can agree with the EPA, I think it’s a good day,” said Sen. Teresa Ibach of Sumner.

Hunt took issue with several of those arguments. She said that mandating the sale of 15% ethanol fuel could drive up its price and that ethanol production uses high amounts of water and other energy. She also said that several lawmakers, including Ibach, should file conflict of interest statements because they hail from farming families that could benefit financially from the bill.

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