Topeka — An Environmental Protection Agency decision to qualify grain sorghum as a renewable fuel under federal standards is being hailed as good news for Kansas, which raises more of the crop than any other state.
Gov. Sam Brownback said last month’s EPA decision that ethanol produced from sorghum qualifies under the Renewable Fuels Standard Program could be a boost to state’s economy.
“The RFS requires the United States to produce 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022, with an increasing requirement for renewable fuels from non-corn sources,” Brownback said. “This pathway will open the door for Kansas sorghum farmers and Kansas ethanol plants to help meet both the conventional biofuel and advanced biofuel mandates under the RFS.”
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that the governor noted 60 percent of Kansas-produced ethanol comes from sorghum, which also is known as milo.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture said in a statement that a determination signed by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Nov. 30 found that grain sorghum ethanol produced at dry-mill facilities that utilize natural gas for processing energy meets the 20 percent greenhouse gas emission reduction threshold necessary to qualify as a renewable fuel under RFS guidelines.
According to the Kansas Grain Sorghum Growers Association, sorghum thrives in hot, dry conditions and looks a lot like corn, just smaller. It’s primarily used as feed for livestock, but lately more of it has been used to produce ethanol as well.
Brownback recently sent a letter to Jackson urging approval of sorghum’s RFS qualification and invited her and EPA staff members to visit Kansas ethanol plants that use sorghum grown by farmers in the state.
The ruling could benefit Western Plains Energy, an Oakley company that plans to use waste from beef feedlots, swine operations and landfills to generate methane gas used in its sorghum-produced ethanol plant. Another beneficiary, Garden City-based Conestoga Energy, uses carbon dioxide trapped in oil wells as part of its sorghum-ethanol production.
“The ingenuity found in Kansas is second to none,” said Dale Rodman, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture. “These ethanol plants, and likely many more, have made significant financial investments necessary to produce ethanol from sorghum and meet advanced biofuel standards.
“Approving the sorghum pathway is a critical step forward in our nation’s quest to become energy independent,” he said.