Ricketts, biofuels champion at home, abroad

There’s no question biofuels and a strong RFS are important to the future of the Cornhusker State. This article appears in the October issue of EPM.
By Holly Jessen | September 10, 2015

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts knows the value of renewable fuels. His state, No. 2 on the list of ethanol producing states, has 24 ethanol production facilities that produced a combined total of 1.8 billion gallons of ethanol in 2014. The industry supports 4,400 jobs in Nebraska.

At the end of July, Ricketts and Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds held a news conference at Novozymes’ Blair, Nebraska, enzyme production facility, to discuss the potential impact of the U.S. EPA’s RFS proposal. In June, Ricketts led a 30-member trade team to the European Union, including stops in Italy, Belgium and Denmark.

While in Denmark, a roundtable on renewable fuels and bioproducts was held at Novozymes’ headquarters. Some of the participants included Nebraska ethanol producers Paul Kenny, chairman of the KAAPA Ethanol LLC board of directors and representative on the Nebraska Ethanol Board, and Jeff Briggs, Green Plains Inc. chief operating officer; and representatives from DuPont, DONG Energy and Leifmark.

The governor and other members of the trade mission also met with Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen. "We've always known that Nebraskans support biofuel production, including the local and federal elected officials,” said Holk Nielsen. “Gov. Ricketts and others have written to EPA recently defending the renewable fuel standard and we appreciate their unwavering support.”
The RFS was the main topic at the roundtable, Kenny told EPM. “We just need to have a clearer, more concise vision of ethanol and the future in the United States before people can expand and spend money.”

Briggs told EPM that he felt the meeting at Novozymes was helpful to provide a better understanding and relationship with a key supplier. “[It’s] important to communicate to Novozymes the support of the RFS and continued support of their business and operations in Nebraska,” he said.

Rooting for a Robust RFS
- Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts

Q. In the many issues facing you as governor of Nebraska, how high up does the RFS rank? What does the EPA need to do to get it right on the RFS?
A. The EPA is changing the rules of game in the middle of the game, and they are pulling the rug out from underneath Nebraska’s farmers and our ethanol industry. Nebraska is the second-largest producer of ethanol in the United States, and the industry has invested over $5 billion in capital investments in our state. The EPA’s plan to slash billions of gallons of ethanol from the RFS creates uncertainty for the future of the industry, and limits opportunities for continued investment by ethanol producers and their partners. My administration is urging the EPA to make a firm commitment to a robust RFS, so that American consumers continue to have a variety of choices at the pump.

Q. Tell us about your visit to Novozymes’ headquarters in Denmark. 
A. Novozymes has been a great investor in Nebraska, and we met with CEO Peder Holk Nielsen to thank him for their continued commitment to our state. At this meeting, Peder shared some of their concerns about the regulatory environment in the United States. Because of the EPA’s proposed changes the renewable fuel standard, Novozymes has had to rethink some of their expansion plans in the United States. This is a concrete example of the U.S. EPA’s actions potentially costing Nebraska jobs.

Q. Tell us about the roundtable on biofuels held there. 
A. Nebraska delegates presented U.S. market trends and regulations to the group, with a focus on coproducts, revenue opportunities and biorefinery developments. The group summarized opportunities for businesses in the U.S. that partner with Nebraska and its companies. The Nebraska team also showcased the dynamic interaction between the corn, cattle, and ethanol sectors and their important roles in Nebraska’s success in agriculture. 

Author: Holly Jessen
Managing Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine