Ethanol and Other Alternate Fuels

Historically, the role of the Energy Office in the development of alternate transportation fuels has been that of advocate and demonstrator. In its role of energy policy advisor, the agency has taken a more active role in coordinating the development and use of ethanol-based fuels, not only in the state, but around the country as well.

With the passage of the amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 and the subsequent passage of the Energy Policy Act in 1992, cleaner burning fuels of all types became a national priority. Generally, the transportation fuel types considered "alternate" are biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, methanol, natural gas and propane.

The thrust of alternative fuel efforts has been on the fuels and additives to be used in the carbon monoxide and ozone nonattainment areas of the country which are required to use cleaner-burning transportation fuels. There are no nonattainment areas in Nebraska.

1998-1999 Highlights

Clean Cities
A number of issues and activities involved the agency as it fulfilled its role in fostering the growth of alternate transportation fuels, including ethanol.

During the reporting period, Omaha became the nation's 66th Clean City and Nebraska's first Clean City. Clean Cities is a voluntary, locally-based government and industry partnership, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy, to expand the use of alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel.

The agency received a $3,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to defray Clean Cities activities in Nebraska. The Energy Office spent all these funds during the fiscal year for activities associated with Omaha becoming a Clean City.

Nebraska Ethanol Production Developments

In 1998, the state retained its position as the number three ethanol producer in the nation. An estimated 1/6th of the state's corn and _ of the state's grain sorghum are used to produce ethanol and other by-products. A total of six operational plants produced more than 330 million gallons of ethanol in 1998. A seventh plant in Sutherland is nearing operational status and could add 15 million gallons to the state's 1999 production total. The plants employ 735 Nebraskans directly and an estimated 3,600 indirectly - a total of 4,325 jobs.

85 Percent Ethanol Efforts in Nebraska

85% Ethanol
As part of a Governors' Ethanol Coalition effort (more about the Coalition is on page 12), the Energy Office directly and indirectly coordinated efforts to increase the use of 85 percent ethanol as an alternate fuel both inside the state and across the nation:

Biodiesel Efforts in the State

In April, 1998, the Roads Department began using SoyGoldTM in all its vehicles. SoyGold contains one percent soybean oil and 99 percent diesel fuel. As a result, the cost of the fuel is competitive with regular diesel fuel. This $36,700 project is being co-sponsored by the Roads Department, Energy Office, Nebraska Soybean Association, AGP, Inc., Farmland and the Western Regional Biomass Energy Program. A report on the results of the soybean oil/diesel fuel test is due in September 1999.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory Grants

Two grants totaling $49,000 were received from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The Energy Office contracted with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to perform a literature search of research involving methyl tertiary butyl ether, MTBE, and ethyl tertiary butyl ether, ETBE. The report resulting from this $15,000 project was provided to the California Energy Commission for inclusion in its report on the health effects of MTBE.

A second grant of $34,000 was used to research the feasibility of a zero pollution cattle operation teamed with an ethanol plant. The concept is that byproducts from the ethanol plant are used as feed for the cattle and waste from the cattle is processed into biogas which can then be converted to electricity for use by the ethanol plant. Work on this concept continued beyond the reporting period.