Ethanol producers welcome court ruling - Omaha World Herald

Article by Erin Golden, Omaha World Herald - Jan. 7, 2012

Local ethanol producers say their industry has scored an important victory with a federal judge's decision to throw out a tighter fuel standard in California.

The state's Low Carbon Fuel Standard program, introduced in 2007, was aimed at cutting down on pollution from fuel burned on the road - an overall 10 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

But the road map to that goal, which included complex rules about where and how fuel is produced, took fire from ethanol producers across the Midwest.

In 2009, several groups, including the Renewable Fuels Association and ethanol trade group Growth Energy, filed a lawsuit to block the plan. The attorneys general in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan and the Dakotas filed a brief in support of the suit, noting that 31 percent of the ethanol exported from Nebraska goes to California.

They said California's plan would unfairly shut Midwest-made ethanol out of California's more than 1 billion-gallons-per-year ethanol market in favor of ethanol from California or foreign countries - and hurt a growing industry.

More than two years later, a U.S. District Court judge in Fresno, Calif., agreed.

In a ruling issued just before the end of the year, Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill said the California standard was unconstitutional because it blocked the free flow of commerce between states. He granted an injunction requested by the industry groups, making the standard unenforceable.

Todd Becker, president and CEO of Omaha-based Green Plains Renewable Energy - the country's fourth-largest ethanol producer - said the decision was a significant one.

"I think it's a big victory for the Midwest, a big victory for corn-based ethanol, and I'm sure the fight's not over," Becker said.

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