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Michigan corn growers: regulators’ proposal is “shaking the foundation” of renewable fuels

Adventure George
Sec. Vilsak says tests have shown that fuel that's 15 percent ethanol, which is often made from corn, is safe for use in vehicles from model years 2001 and later. Critics, including the Detroit Three, disagree.

Federal regulators plan to mix more renewable fuel into gasoline over the next few years, but it’s a whole lot less than Congress wanted.

In 2007, Congress passed a law to increase biofuels. It was part of an effort to lower greenhouse gas emission and dependence on foreign oil and boost the renewable fuel industry. The law set mandates for how much renewable fuel is produced and mixed into gasoline.

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal that would lower the goals for renewable fuels in 2015 through 2017.

The agency says the market can’t reach those targets Congress set for a few reasons. Older vehicles can’t use a higher blend of ethanol so the EPA says the market can’t absorb more supply.

David Gloer manages one of five facilities in Michigan that make bio-fuels. He says they buy all their corn from Michigan farmers.

“We employ hundreds of workers directly and economic estimates show that more than 22,000 Michigan workers have jobs that are tied to the ethanol production,” Gloer said.

Gloer and corn producers say regulators are bowing to pressure from big oil companies.

Jeff Sandborn chairs the National Corn Growers Association Ethanol Committee.

“Anything that lowers demand for corn will lower the price of corn,” Sandborn said.

Sandborn says it costs him a little over four dollars to produce each bushel of corn on his farm in mid-Michigan. But the commodity is trading at more than 50 cents below that.

“They don’t understand that this is shaking the foundation of renewable fuels for the next generation of fuels that are cellulosic and others,” Sandborn said.

People have a couple months to give federal regulators feedback on the proposal before a final decision is made.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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