The Trump administration’s decision to allow year-round sales of gasoline mixed with 15% ethanol is a plus for Nebraska’s agriculture sector. But how much of a plus remains to be seen.
The ethanol sector and ag producer associations have long lobbied for the year-round sales. But the availability of E15 at gas stations nationwide is limited — only about 1,000 to 1,500 stations out of more than 150,000 carry the fuel.
Another challenge is the EPA’s granting of waivers to allow refineries to forgo ethanol production. The members of Nebraska and Iowa’s congressional delegations have underscored that point. Iowa is the nation’s No. 1 ethanol producer, with Nebraska No. 2.
The ethanol sector employs more than 1,400 Nebraskans, with average annual wages of $71,600. The sector in 2017 generated an estimated 5,166 full-time jobs directly and indirectly, with a $370 million impact. Iowa’s ethanol sector generates about 42,000 jobs with an average wage of nearly $70,000 and a $4.7 billion economic impact.
Ethanol advocates will need to keep up their fight. Year-round E15 sales are a help, but no panacea.