This month we spotlight ERI Solutions, our latest vendor member. Read our interview with ERI Solutions president, Nathan Vander Griend, below.
Q. Please tell us about ERI Solutions.
A. ERI Solutions, Inc. is commonly known in the ethanol industry as the manager of the ethanol industry’s only group captive insurance program which is comprised of nearly 70 ethanol producer/shareholders spanning 20 states. In addition to providing the premier insurance program available to the industry, ERI also provides a variety of services designed to mitigate insurable and uninsurable risks of the ethanol industry by providing environmental compliance, carbon & sustainability modeling, health & safety, Process Safety Management (PSM), Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) and insurance risk management consulting services.
Image above : ERI Solutions' testing and inspection services
Q. Please tell us about your company’s role within the ethanol industry in Minnesota and why the company is committed to supporting the ethanol industry now and in the future?
A. ERI is involved with several ethanol producers in Minnesota in varying capacity. Some have qualified and are shareholder members of the captive program whereas others purchase some varying degree of our services on a standalone basis.
ERI is passionate about what we do, but we are also passionate about the ethanol industry and its success. We are part of the ethanol industry as it is the majority of what we do and who we service. Like ERI, most companies understand their businesses in and out, but do they understand your business in and out? Are they there to fight for you as a member of their industry or are they there to cut a deal and make a buck? ERI is committed not only to being financially involved in supporting various ethanol trade associations and initiatives, but also by actively participating in lobbying efforts to congress through fly-ins, letters to congress and promoting the truth about ethanol in every avenue possible.
Image above : ERI Solutions' audit and assessment services
Q. From your perspective, what would you like consumers to know about the ethanol industry and the fuel it produces?
A. I believe there are a three things that consumers should understand about ethanol that so often go overlooked – The value of ethanol from an octane standpoint, and the value of corn starch being converted to ethanol vs. being fed to livestock, and ethanol is often not the culprit of small engine issues or issues with rubber or plastic component deterioration.
Octane Value of Ethanol: Ethanol and toluene (a known toxic aromatic in gasoline) are both used to increase octane in motor fuel. It takes 1 part ethanol to replace 2 parts of toluene.
Corn Starch – Ethanol or Feed: All ethanol producers are doing is using the starch, a portion of a kernel of corn that has little to no nutritional value to ruminants such as cattle.
Small Engine & Plastic/Rubber Component Issues: When testing fuel lines and other plastic components found in small engines, aromatics found in gasoline are the culprit, NOT ethanol.
Q. What do you think is needed for the availability of E15 to grow?
A. There are several challenges for E15 to grow, but the challenge I believe to present the greatest threat to adoption of E15 is the EPA’s seemingly blatant attempts to make higher ethanol blends look worse in studies/models such as the EPAct study which is the base data for the MOVES2014 (Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator) model. This model shows that when ethanol is added to gasoline, emissions actually go up. It’s easy to see when you review the study that in fact the only way you can make emissions go up when you add ethanol is by changing the characteristics of the gasoline in the “new blend.”
Q. What do you see as the ethanol industry’s biggest challenge?
A. From my perspective the biggest challenge without a doubt is misinformation about the industry. Like many, if not all of you being from the Midwest we have morals and values that often tells us that what is right will always prevail. I often hear the popular saying, “The truth will prevail!” We all want to believe that, but our opponents are well funded, and the truth can be vailed for an awful long time if enough money is thrown at it. We need to continue to be unique and relentless with our approach.
Q. What does your company see for the future of ethanol and advanced biofuels?
A. It is hard to say exactly what we see at this point. With the attacks on the RFS it makes for an interesting environment. No doubt the technology exists to disprove the myth that cellulosic can’t be done, but our uncertainty is if the EPA and Government will stand their ground on the decisions they made that so many are relying on to make the significant investments to move forward with advanced technologies.