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Nebraskans are again this week feeling “pain at the pump” due to a rapid rise in gasoline prices.

The petroleum mandate forced on U.S. motorists prevents consumers from choosing less costly fuel options at the pump. Artificial impediments imposed on the fuel market restrict the use of less expensive, cleaner burning options like ethanol.

A single refinery disruption in California is cited by oil industry analysts as the cause for our pain at the pump this week. Retail gasoline prices spiked nearly twenty cents per gallon almost overnight in many markets including Nebraska. The impact of this increase again occurs at a time when few motorists can tolerate this economic burden. This scenario repeats itself on a predicable basis despite options that would mitigate economic and environmental damage caused by oil refinery disruptions.

Ethanol fuels are consistently the low cost option for many consumers. Ethanol fuel blends saved Nebraska motorists more than $50 million last year. That money stayed in the Nebraska economy and generated many economic benefits for consumers.

Nationally, ethanol helped cut 89 cents on average from a gallon of gas. Those savings are critically important to consumers and the country. Consumers could save even more at the pump if additional ethanol fuel options were available.

The international oil cartel and their aligned policymakers in Congress continue to prevent these consumer choices through legislative and regulatory roadblocks. These tactics cost consumers billions of dollars in increased fuel prices each year. That fact will be painfully obvious in coming weeks.

The petroleum mandate imposed on the U.S. causes economic harm to our health and the economy. Toxic chemicals used in gasoline formulas continue to degrade public health and increase health care costs. Reports from California clearly reflect this health crisis not only near the site of the refinery but in urban areas throughout the state.

By contrast, ethanol helps increase the octane quality of gasoline while reducing economic and environmental costs. Consumers deserve fuel choices that cost less and create economic opportunities across the country. The oil industry actively opposes these choices for consumers. And more pain at the pump is the predictable result.

Today, ethanol comprises about 10 percent of the nation’s gasoline supply. This significant contribution to our domestic fuel supply has helped cut oil imports while reducing prices at the pump. Ethanol can be made from a variety of sources. Federal policy encourages this diversity of fuel types. Federal policy also encourages investment in new technologies that will diversify the domestic fuel portfolio while creating high quality jobs in many sectors.

The oil cartel and several “Big Food” companies oppose this diversification. The international oil cartel attempts to minimize the contribution of ethanol and other biofuels. In fact, current ethanol production capacity is 3.8 times more than the potential cited for the Bakken shale oil formations. Ethanol production capability is 2.9 times greater than the output from Canada cited for the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

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It is important to diversify America’s energy portfolio but the net economic impact of fuels is clearly in favor of ethanol if you are a Nebraskan. Ethanol has made an important impact on the Nebraska economy and that positive impact will continue to generate benefits far into the future.

The prospects for biofuel production in Nebraska and the U.S. are good if policymakers have the will to embrace a domestic renewable fuels policy. The oil cartel and Big Food will continue to impede this opportunity as in the past. Their corporate interests do not align with the economic interests of most consumers.

As consumers see prices spike at the gas pump it is important to understand that ethanol helps to reduce the impact of refinery shortages. Ethanol fuels make important economic contributions to the Nebraska and U.S. economy. Ethanol fuels reduce the harmful impact of gasoline emissions and mitigate the dangerous environmental consequences of a petroleum based transportation system.The contribution from domestic biofuel production will increase if policymakers remove artificial barriers that limit the role of biofuels in our transportation sector.

Consumers deserve more choices at the pump. Ethanol is clearly a reliable option that can expand consumer choices and reduce fuel cost.

Todd Sneller is administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board.



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