"The Great American Race" meant more to Americans this year than ever before as it made a major contribution to our efforts for energy independence. "The Great American Race", of course, is the Daytona 500, NASCAR's biggest, richest and most prestigious event, and this year, it was more American than ever.
When the announcer said, "Gentlemen, start your engines", they were starting engines powered by E15, a 15 percent ethanol blend made from American corn grown by American farmers, most likely Nebraska farmers. After all, we are the third largest corn producing state and the second largest ethanol producing state in the country.
Late last year, NASCAR announced it would use E15 in its three national racing series because it is committed to helping the environment, supporting job creation, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and backing family farms.
NASCAR's decision came after several of us in the U.S. Senate pushed EPA hard enough to speed up its dawdling bureaucracy and approve E15. In making its announcement approving E15 for all vehicles built after 2001, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson gave a solid endorsement for E15.
She said that "thorough testing has shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks. Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home grown fuels in America's vehicles, this administration takes those steps."
With an endorsement like that and now with Daytona 500 race cars using E15, the hope is we'll see a big jump in its use which will move the ethanol industry forward to help the U.S. meet a requirement that the nation use 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. This will create more choice at the fuel pump for consumers while it sparks the economy, creates jobs, increases national security by reducing our reliance on foreign oil, and reduces emissions while not contributing to air pollution.
For the Cornhusker State, it is really good news. We have 24 active ethanol production plants with a combined capacity of more than 2 billion gallons of the 13 billion gallons produced nationwide. A 2009 study by the Nebraska Public Power District found that the indirect impact of the ethanol industry has created more than 3,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic activity in Nebraska.
As the Nebraska Corn Board said before the race, "American Ethanol will be on display at every race -- on the fuel ports of every car, on the green flag, in at-track hospitality programs, via a special "American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award" and in commercials that showcase America's corn farmers. Corn farmers from across the country will also be attending many of the races to show their support for NASCAR and American Ethanol."
Nebraskans everywhere have a right to be proud of the role one of our state's chief commodities played in this historic race and the role our state will continue to play in developing renewable fuels that strengthen America's efforts for energy security.