The Nebraska Corn Board for years has given grants to Nebraska fuel retailers to incentivize them to add higher blends of ethanol, such as E-15 or E-85.
But now, the organization is going out of state to promote the fuel.
The Corn Board announced earlier this month that it partnered with a company called Pearson Fuels to put two E-85 pumps at stations in California, the first time it has provided a grant to help pay for pumps at a location out of state.
The two pumps are at stations in Chatsworth and Agoura Hills, both of which are Los Angeles-area suburbs.
While promoting corn-based fuel from conservative Nebraska to drivers in liberal California may seem like an odd marriage, it makes a lot of sense.
“California is the largest E-85 market in the country, and the demand opportunity is enormous,” said John Greer, a farmer from Edgar who is District 2 director for the Corn Board. "Plus, most of Nebraska’s ethanol is sold to California."
More than 1 million people drive flex fuel vehicles in California, nearly three times as many as drive battery electric vehicles. The demand for ethanol is twice as high as it is in Iowa and three times as high as it is in Minnesota, said Greg Jones, director of business development with Pearson Fuels, a California-based alternative fuels retailer.
However, Jones said, it's very expensive to convert stations in the state to offer higher ethanol blends.
"That’s why we’re so excited to partner with the Nebraska Corn Board to help expand this market,” he said.
It's likely the California deal will be more than just a one-time experiment for the Corn Board.
"We’re interested in doing further grant work in major population areas," said Jeff Wilkerson, the Corn Board's director of market development. "California is of specific interest for that reason, along with California being a major destination for Nebraska ethanol."
"We will continue to support infrastructure in-state, but we’re going to fill so much more demand by adding states with high populations into the mix,” he said.
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