E85 often gives drivers more bang for their buck than regular gasoline

E85 prices

When E85 is priced at least 22 percent less than regular unleaded, you get more energy bang for your buck.

If you fill up with E85 (a blend of 85 percent homegrown ethanol and 15 percent regular gasoline), you’re often getting more bang for your buck. Specifically, when the fuel is priced correctly by retailers, drivers who fill up with E85 get more Btu per dollar than regular unleaded (which only contains 10 percent ethanol).

First, what’s a Btu? A Btu (or British Thermal Unit) is a unit of energy traditionally used to measure power.

Second, let’s look at a scenario to demonstrate how E85 gives drivers more Btu bang for their buck — even when you factor in ethanol’s lower energy content compared to gasoline — when retailers price the fuel correctly:

  • At the Marshall-Cretin Minnoco station in St. Paul the other day, E85 was priced at $1.79 per gallon compared to $2.49 for regular unleaded. That’s about a 28 percent savings when you fill up with E85.
  • Regular unleaded contains 112,114 Btu/gallon. E85 contains 88,258 Btu/gallon.
  • At $1.79 per gallon of E85, you’re getting 49,059 Btu for every dollar spent.
  • At $2.49 per gallon for regular unleaded, you’re getting 44,863 Btu for every dollar you spend.
  • That amounts to about 4,200 more Btu per dollar for E85 compared to regular unleaded, even though E85 contains about 22 percent less energy by volume than regular gasoline.

Third, let’s explain how pricing factors into all of this. Ethanol is less expensive than gasoline. It’s energy content is also lower. However, as outlined in the above example, E85 is still a more economical option than regular unleaded, if it’s priced correctly.

In other words, any time E85 is priced at least 22 percent less than regular unleaded you’re getting more Btu bang for your buck, even when factoring in ethanol’s lower energy content. Currently, e85prices.com lists the average spread between E85 and regular unleaded in Minnesota at about 27 percent.

It’s important for retailers to understand the price/energy content relationship with ethanol so they can price E85 accordingly. When retailers mark up E85 prices simply to try and take advantage of ethanol’s lower wholesale price compared to gasoline, the strategy often backfires. Retailers who keep the price gap between E85 and regular unleaded at 22 percent or higher frequently see an uptick in sales.

Fourth, let’s once again emphasize the fact that ethanol’s future remains bright despite the recent trend of lower gas prices.

Saving money at the pump isn’t the sole reason to fill up with E85. Ethanol also burns cleaner than regular gasoline and is the most affordable option for meeting the octane needs of today’s (and tomorrow’s) engines.

Ethanol is a homegrown fuel, made from corn grown right here in Minnesota and processed at one of our state’s 21 ethanol plants. By using ethanol, you’re supporting our local economy, not a Big Oil company who rakes in billions of dollars in government subsidies and relies on environmentally destructive methods to extract its product.

Finally, if you want more information on ethanol, including where to find higher ethanol blends in Minnesota, go to www.mnfuels.org.

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Ranking the teams in the Minnesota State Boys’ Hockey Tournament based on corn harvest

MN boys state hockey tournament logoThe puck drops on the internationally-known Minnesota State Boys’ Hockey Tournament Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota’s corn farmers are proud to sponsor this year’s Minnesota State Boys’ Hockey Tournament. Look for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) logo along the Xcel Energy Center boards and for MCGA commercials airing during each game.

Last year 118,249 people attended the tournament and hundreds of thousands more watched all the action live on KSTC-TV, Channel 45. Click here for more information on all the teams who made this year’s tournament, which can also be viewed live on KSTC-TV, Channel 45.

Corn growing areas of Minnesota are well represented at this year’s tournament. New Ulm plays Mahtomedi in the tournament’s first game at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. New Ulm is in Brown County, which harvested 26,690,000 bushels of corn in 2014. That makes New Ulm the leader for corn bushels harvested among all the teams in this year’s tourney.

Will New Ulm’s corn-harvesting dominance give it the edge it needs to make a run at a state title? Well, it certainly can’t hurt!

In case you were wondering, here’s the full breakdown of where each school in this year’s tournament ranks in harvesting corn, measured by bushels harvested in 2014.

New Ulm (Brown County) 26,690,000 bushels
St. Cloud Apollo (Stearns) 20,948,000
Lakeville North (Dakota) 15,331,000
St. Thomas Academy (Dakota) 15,331,000
East Grand Forks (Polk) 8,710,000
New Prague (Scott) 4,357,000
Mahtomedi (Washington) 3,207,000
Breck School (Hennepin) 1,293,000
Eden Prairie (Hennepin) 1,293,000
Edina (Hennepin) 1,293,000
Spring Lake Park (Anoka) 700,000
Blaine (Anoka) 700,000
Hermantown (St. Louis) 0
Duluth East (St. Louis) 0
Bemidji (Beltrami) 0
Hill-Murray (Ramsey) 0

Best of luck to all the teams playing in this year’s Minnesota State Boys’ Hockey Tournament (even the teams who come from non-corn growing areas).

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This week’s ag update from the Minnesota state capitol

Anna Boroff

Anna Boroff, MCGA Public Policy Director.

Written by Anna Boroff, MCGA Public Policy Director

I’m back after spending the last week in Washington D.C. and Phoenix on a very interesting MARL trip and another productive Commodity Classic, respectively.

While I was away, the Minnesota legislature learned that the budget surplus is now projected to be $1.89 billion, an increase of $832 million over the November forecast. That’s certainly good news as the March 20 first committee deadline approaches.

Several ag and corn-related policy items progressed last week as well. Here’s a summary:

  • Great news for ag research: The Ag Coalition bill, which establishes the agriculture research, education, extension and technology transfer board, passed out of the House Ag Policy Committee and was sent to Government Operations. This bill is also supported by the University of Minnesota and would fund ag productivity research, ag education and rapid response to plant and animal disease. The bill heads to the Senate Ag Policy Committee on Wednesday.
  • The Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) came out in support of clarifying existing law and incentives, and taking an inventory of buffers in response to Gov. Dayton’s buffer proposal made in January. MFU also wants the buffer issue to be addressed by the Drainage Work Group and report back to the 2016 legislature. We still haven’t seen an official bill or policy proposal from the Governor regarding buffers.
  • On the Bioeconomy Bill (legislation that would create incentives to make advanced biofuels from sources such as corn stalks), we’re continuing to work with House Agriculture Finance Chair Rod Hamilton and our author in the Senate, Tom Saxhaug to schedule the next round of hearings.
  • Two bills up for discussion this week: funding for the ag veterinary diagnostic lab (HF941) in the House Ag Finance Committee and the Ag Nuisance Lawsuits bill (HF582) in the House Ag Policy Committee.
  • On the federal side, the budget reconciliation process could open up sections of the farm bill. Most committees will be asked to cut some amount of discretionary spending from their budgets. There’s a good chance farm bill programs will be asked to take a cut.
  • It’s still wait-and-see when it comes to the Renewable Fuel Standard. I talked to several folks about the RFS while at Commodity Classic and nobody knows when a final number will be set and what the final number will look like. The waiting game continues…
  • Over 900,000 comments were submitted on EPA’s Waters of the United States proposal. A final rule could be released late this spring, but I’d be surprised if it’s out that soon.
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced at Commodity Classic that USDA is providing a one-time extension of the deadline to update base acres or yield history for the ARC/PLC programs. The new deadline is March 31. More details here. Be in touch with you local FSA office as soon as possible to get this taken care of.

Written by Anna Boroff, Public Policy Director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), who has been at the Minnesota state capitol throughout the current legislative session.

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USDA extends deadline to update base acres or yield history and other news from Commodity Classic

Bruce Peterson

Bruce Peterson, a farmer in Northfield and president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, comments at a resolution during Corn Congress at Commodity Classic this week.

The 20th annual Commodity Classic is underway in Phoenix and several Minnesota Corn Growers Association grower-leaders are in attendance. Here is a quick summary of some of the corn-centric news to come out of Classic so far:

  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will provide a one-time extension to farmers for the new safety-net programs (known as ARC and PLC) established in the 2014 farm bill. The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres has been extended from Feb. 27 to March 31. The final day for farmers to choose ARC or PLC coverage remains March 31. Click here for more details on the extension.
  • Corn farmers are asking congress to not turn its back on ethanol and other renewable fuels. On Thursday, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill to eliminate corn ethanol blending requirements. “The Renewable Fuel Standard is working. We are growing renewable, clean energy right here in America,” said Keith Alverson, a National Corn Growers Association board member from South Dakota in response to the bill. “Corn ethanol is better for the environment and has historically lowered the cost of filling our tanks by nearly a dollar. With a second consecutive record crop, there is more than enough corn to meet all demands for food, fuel, feed, and fiber. Corn farmers have more than met our commitment on the RFS. There are many good reasons to continue this policy, and we look forward to working with Congress to support it.”
  • Removing trade barriers and expanding markets for U.S. corn is another hot topic at Commodity Classic. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called for renewed engagement in trade policy by U.S. farmers and completion of agreements currently in negotiations, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Tom Sleight weighed in on Secretary Vilsack’s remarks: “Free trade measures are in effect with 14 of our top 30 U.S. corn customers from the last marketing year. We have also established favorable trade agreements with top importing countries of U.S. sorghum and barley. We are confident that the next generation of trade agreements will have even more dramatic impact as the global economy becomes more integrated and more countries realize the potential for vigorous trade to improve their economies, levels of food security and qualities of life.”
  • Organizations across the agriculture spectrum are standing up to support the 2014 farm bill at Commodity Classic. Here is a joint statement released by the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers:

    “On behalf of our farmer members, we are united in our support for the comprehensive farm bill passed by Congress just over one year ago. We are keenly aware of the cuts just made to mandatory spending across many titles and strongly oppose any changes or cuts to farm bill programs, many of which are just now being implemented.

    Commodity Classic attendees are anxious about the 32 percent drop in farm income projected for this year, compared to 2014. On a wide range of issues, from the farm safety net to the Renewable Fuel Standard to biotech approvals, certainty is what America’s farmers need most from their elected officials at this time, and we worked hard to improve farm programs in the 2014 farm bill to reduce the burden on taxpayers while ensuring farmers get support when they need it the most.

    Our family farmers work hard each season to provide a safe and abundant supply of food, feed, fuel and fiber for the world. The best way for Congress to support our work is to not stand in the way of a law that works and has great promise for rural America.”

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Study: Ethanol industry added $52.7 billion to national GDP in 2014

EthanolA new study from ABF Economics on behalf of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) concluded that the ethanol industry added $52.7 billion to the national Gross Domestic Prodcut (GDP) in 2014.

Other findings from the study include:

  • Ethanol is responsible for 83,949 direct jobs and 295,265 indirect and induced jobs
  • Ethanol added $26.7 billion to household income
  • Ethanol generated $10.3 billion in federal, state and local taxes
  • Ethanol displaced 515 million barrels of oil worth $49 billion

“The importance of the ethanol industry to agriculture and rural economies is particularly notable,” said John Urbanchuk, author of the study and managing partner of ABF Economics. “Continued growth and expansion of the ethanol industry through new technologies and feedstocks will enhance the industry’s position as the original creator of green jobs, and will enable America to make further strides toward energy independence.”

The full study can be viewed here.

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MCGA Radio: Bruce Peterson from Commodity Classic

The Minnesota delegation meeting an hour before Corn Congress begins at Commodity Classic

Several Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) farmer-leaders are in Phoenix this week for the 20th annual Commodity Classic, one of the largest gatherings of farmers, agribusiness and ag policy leaders that takes place during the year.

Commodity Classic is also where the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) sets its policy and priority goals for the upcoming year. Since MCGA is one of the largest grassroots ag organizations in the entire country, it’s important that the voices of Minnesota corn farmers are heard when NCGA sets its national policy goals.

Northfield farmer and MCGA President Bruce Peterson took a few minutes before the Minnesota caucus met at Commodity Classic on Wednesday afternoon to provide an update on some of the national issues that will be discussed at Classic this year. Listen to Bruce’s interview with Lynn Kettelsen of the Linder Farm Network on this week’s MCGA Radio:

 

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These classic ethanol commercials are a clean air blast from the past

Larry the Lung

Larry the Lung helped teach people about the clean air benefits of homegrown ethanol.

Minnesota corn farmers played an important role in building our state’s pioneering ethanol industry. They also came up with some funny and effective ethanol-themed commercials while doing it.

The staff at the Minnesota Corn Growers Association has put together a compilation of the some of the best television and radio commercials from ethanol’s early days. These ads — along with the hard work and dedication of Minnesota’s corn farmers — helped expand the use of clean, renewable and homegrown ethanol.

Many of the ads were humorous, like these television spots featuring the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Little Pigs, and Larry — the walking, talking, wise-cracking human lung.

 

Cable news outlets have talking heads. We have talking lungs.

Not every ethanol promotional campaign focused on animated characters and humor. In these two commercials, Bart Conner, a gold-medal winning gymnast in the 1984 Olympics, and Christian Laettner, the third overall pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1992 NBA draft, showcase why ethanol is better for both the air we breathe and our planet.

 

 

Laettner’s career with the Timberwolves might not have went so well, but he made an excellent ethanol spokesperson!

Remember the “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey” segments on Saturday Nigh Live? These commercials are kind of an ethanol version of “Deep Thoughts” for boaters, jet-skiiers and snowmobilers.

 

A little esoteric, a little abstract, definitely “out there.” But pretty darn funny!

Just like Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken and others do today, many elected officials and public figures spoke out on behalf of ethanol in its early days.

 

Unfortunately, as you can see in Sen. Durenburger’s comments in the clip, the EPA was also an obstacle to ethanol in the early days like it is today.

Television wasn’t the only medium where ethanol ads aired. Here are a couple of radio spots.

 

Actually, given all the misinformation out there about ethanol today, having a random voice tell you the facts about ethanol as you fill up might not be such a bad idea.

We hope you enjoyed this trip down ethanol’s memory lane. Corn farmers, along with many others, worked hard to help build the ethanol industry from the ground up. Sometimes it’s fun to look back and reflect on some of the things that made it possible for ethanol get to where it is today.

If you’re reading this and you want more information about ethanol, go to www.mnfuels.com. Also, this video, prepared by our friends at Illinois Corn, gives you and up-close look at how ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline.

 

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Rehm: Farmers can adjust their fertilizer program downward without ‘falling off a cliff’

George Rehm, right, spoke to over 500 farmers and crop consultants about fertilizer rates at the Minnesota Crop Nutrient Management Conference earlier this month. In the photo, Rehm is shown at one of the Discovery Farms Minnesota sites.

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

It’s well known: macronutrients phosphorous and potassium impact crop yields.

But the data are somewhat contradictory about how much of each will lead to what result, Prof. George Rehm told the packed audience at the 2015 Minnesota Crop Nutrient Management conference in Mankato.

Looking at studies — some four years, some eight years and longer — across a half dozen locations in Minnesota, the clear conclusions, according to Rehm, are that available phosphorous and potassium linger in the soil, and that  “soil test values in the medium range are satisfactory.” Rehm suggested that going to banded application, rather than broadcast application, can be an economical way to get good performance. For an explanation on both application methods, click here.

“If we have to cut back (on fertilizer) in 2015, as many farmers are talking about, we aren’t going to drop out of bed, we’re not going to fall off a cliff, the world’s not going to end, we’ll be alright,” Rehm assured. “Because these values don’t change very fast.”

Control plots where no nutrients were applied showed dramatic reductions in yield, but the performance of medium and high rates were at times contradictory, leading the researchers to find that soil characteristics and particular weather events in different years play a key role. In one example in Becker (central Minnesota), the plot where 60 pounds of potassium (K20) were applied each year over three years, K levels hovered between 60 and 70 parts per million, but the crop in 2014 yielded 220 bushels of corn, compared to the plot where they applied 100 pounds of K per acre, and soil values ranged between 80 and 85 ppm, yet the yield in 2014 was 218 bushels —essentially the same result.

Similar tests at the University of Minnesota Extension fields in Waseca (south central Minnesota), already higher testing for potassium, showed both a wider range of values, and a much higher difference in performance: on fields where they added 120 pounds of K per acre, they achieved a yield of 178 bushels in 2014, compared to only 158 bushels on fields where 60 pounds had been applied each year.

Rehm reflected on the economic picture for farmers: “In the current situation, when you look at cost and return with low commodity prices, If we want to be as economical as possible or try to reach a profit, there are only about three things you can change: one is fertilizer cost, two is seed cost and three is cash rent. Cash rent isn’t moving because a lot of farmers are willing to pay it. The seed industry has decided not to reduce the cost of the seed. The only other thing these folks can wiggle is with the fertilizer management. Try to put a lid on fertilizer costs or even reduce them if they can.”

A long term study at the West-Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris looked at ‘high testing soils’ and the rate of decline over an eight-year period when no phosphorous fertilizer was applied. The year-to-year rate of decline was never dramatic. On fields that started with soil values around 20 ppm, it took eight years to drop to 10 ppm.

The research confirms that soil pH impacts the availability of these nutrients to growing crops. At a Sibley County (south central Minnesota) test site, calcareous soils, which are more basic, offered a pound less phosphorous and 4.4 pounds less potassium per acre, than did more acidic soils at the same location.

The annual Minnesota Crop Nutrient Management Conference is organized each year by the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Center (MAWRC) in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and co-sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association

Readers can see more from Rehm at www.agbuzz.com.

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MCGA Agvocate to farmers: Share your story, listen to consumers

Kendra Davis

Kendra Davis

On Jan. 28, the Minnesota Corn student Agvocates met in Mankato for MN Ag EXPO 2015. Some of our duties at EXPO as Agvocates included attending a session about climate change and the cause and effect of different weather patterns across the world. We also had the chance to help serve meals and assist with some of the other events that went on throughout the day.

One of the best parts of my day was being able to converse with Minnesota Corn members from across the state at our western-themed booth at the trade show. I really enjoy talking with people from across the state and country about their background and being able to listen to their stories.

Back in June when the Agvocates traveled to the Minnesota Ag Ambassador Institute, we attended a workshop by Mary Milla who trains people on how to become better presenters. She taught us a lot about the misinterpretations consumers have about how farmers take care of our livestock and grow our crops, and how we can change their opinions about some of the viewpoints they have.

She also explained to us the importance of farmers sharing their stories not only with people involved with agriculture, but also with people who are completely removed from the farm. It is extremely important for us to talk about agriculture with consumers so that they know we do care about what they are eating. We are eating the same foods they are and would not want to put something harmful into our bodies. If consumers can hear what happens on a farm firsthand from a farmer, they are going to be more likely to trust us instead of other people and organizations with an anti-agriculture agenda.

I think it is just as important to listen to consumers as it is for them to listen to us as well. To gain someone’s trust we must first learn a little bit about them and their concerns about agriculture. I go to college at South Dakota State University and a lot of people, even in an agriculturally centered place like South Dakota, still do not understand very much about farming. When I start talking to people about agriculture I make sure to listen to their concerns so that I can help them feel more comfortable about what they are worried about.

I would like to end with a quote I heard a few years back when I was doing FFA public speaking:

“We as farmers have an important job to do. That is to tell our story. We all have friends, relatives, and neighbors that do not understand farming, and who better to tell them than us? They have to know how much we care. Food is our connection to our consumers; farmers are raising food for our families and yours.”

Make sure to share your story, it’s a pretty simple thing to do, and can make a huge difference.

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This week’s ag update from the Minnesota state capitol

MCGA public policy director testifying on the Bioeconomy Bill in front of the House ag committee last week

MCGA public policy director testifying on the Bioeconomy Bill in front of the House ag committee last week

Written by Anna Boroff, MCGA Public Policy Director

My Minnesota Ag and Rural Leadership (MARL) class is in Washington D.C. until Wednesday morning this week. From D.C., I’m heading straight to Phoenix to attend Commodity Classic.

Before heading out on this week’s travels, I did manage to put together a quick summary of last week’s corn-related legislative happenings:

  • We had 54 legislators attend the Minnesota Corn Growers Association legislative reception last Wednesday. That’s one of our highest turnouts ever! Our annual legislative reception truly is a grassroots experience. The reception is an opportunity for corn farmers to visit informally with legislators in a setting that’s slightly more relaxed than what you typically get when meeting with legislators at the state capitol.
    Tom Emmer

    Congressman Tom Emmer (right) at the MCGA Legislative Reception last week.

    Farmers and legislators can take the time to get to know each other a little bit in addition to talking about a variety of important policy issues. A sincere thank you to the MCGA farmer-leaders who participated and all the legislators, commissioners and other leaders who attended.

  • On Wednesday of last week, I testified in front of the House Agriculture Policy Committee in support of HF536, aka the Bioeconomy Bill. This bill would create an incentive program to make advanced biofuels from sources such as corn stalks, wood waste or perennial alfalfa. The bill now moves to the House Ag Finance Committee and the Senate Energy & Environmental Committee. Opposition testimony came from Friends of the Mississippi and Environmental Initiative, both of which would like to see feedstocks come from sources other than corn stover. I’ll continue to monitor the progress of this bill and keep you updated in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, you can listen to audio from last week’s
    Legislative reception

    MN corn farmers and legislators talking policy at least week’s MCGA Legislative Reception.

    committee hearing here (which includes my testimony on behalf of MCGA) and read about the bill in this Session Daily story.

  • An ag nuisance lawsuit reform bill (SF482) passed the Senate Ag Policy Committee.
  • MCGA Executive Director Adam Birr is attending a forum hosted by Sen. Amy Klobuchar on U.S. and Cuba relations at the University of Minnesota. Other attendees include USDA Under Secretary for Farms and Foreign Agriculture Services Michael Scuse and Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson.
  • This week, the Senate will take up a proposal that’s already passed the House on resolving the commission pay raise kerfuffle. Also, Rep. Rod Hamilton will present his bill funding ag research and education to the House Ag Policy Committee.

Written by Anna Boroff, Public Policy Director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), who has been at the Minnesota state capitol throughout the current legislative session.

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