Ethanol — Alive And Growing

Ethanol Storage Tanks

In the face of great challenges — and in response to even greater needs — the U.S. ethanol industry is growing and evolving. In 2008, the U.S. ethanol industry withstood a deepening recession, with unemployment increasing by 2.3 percentage points and the economy contracting by more than 2.5%, as well as a credit crisis and rising energy costs. In spite of all this adversity, the industry grew by 34%, opening 31 new plants, creating an additional 240,000 jobs, producing a record 9 billion gallons of ethanol, and developing the capacity to turn out 12 billion gallons.

This year, several ethanol facilities that had been idled have returned to production — some under new ownership and others because economic factors are once again favoring ethanol. The industry expects to produce 10.5 billion gallons of ethanol, setting another record and accounting for more than 8% of the nation’s gasoline supply.

Changing Times, Steady Needs

Even as times have changed since the first drop of ethanol was produced, the reasons underpinning our need for renewable fuels remain.

Energy security remains a crucial concern for our country. In 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S. imported 4.3 billion barrels of petroleum, including 2 billion from OPEC nations. Last year, we imported 4.7 billion barrels, including 2.2 billion from OPEC nations, among them Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran and Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela.

Currently, domestic ethanol displaces more than 320 million barrels of imported oil a year, saving taxpayers some $16 billion annually. That’s a start towards weaning America away from its addiction to imported oil from unfriendly governments in unstable parts of the world.

Similarly, ethanol serves another national purpose: Reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, the production and use of 9 billion gallons of ethanol in the U.S. reduced carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 14 million tons — the equivalent of removing 2.1 million cars from the road. That’s another encouraging start towards another important goal.

Meanwhile, expanded ethanol production promotes a third great goal — economic growth that creates “green jobs.” Many of the new plants are in rural areas or small factory towns where factories are closing down and Main Streets are fading away. Now, the ethanol industry is offering opportunities for growers to find markets for their crops and for workers to find good-paying jobs. Many of these positions are for professionals and technicians with training in biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, accounting, and business management, so that college graduates won’t have to leave home.

On Capitol Hill

In Washington, many of the concerns ethanol production and use help address are at the top of the legislative agenda.

Because ethanol serves so many national goals, President Barack Obama has put USDA in charge of a program to promote the American biofuels industry, working with the Department of Energy and EPA. This Biofuels Interagency Working Group is helping to refinance ethanol and biodiesel factories that have been caught in the credit crunch. The working group is also seeking new ways to guarantee loans to build new biorefineries and to provide funding for producers of ethanol from cellulose and other sources.

Meanwhile, the ethanol industry is raising its voice on other important policy issues. Passed in 2007, the Re­newable Fuel Standard continues to drive ethanol sales. This year, the standard requires the use of 11.1 billion gallons of renewable fuels — ethanol, biodiesel, and other advanced biofuels. That figure jumps to about 13 billion in 2009, about 14 billion in 2010, and about 15 billion in 2011. This will provide our industry with an unequivocal and growing demand base.

As the volumes of renewable fuel mandated by the standard continue to expand, we are bumping up against the “blend wall” — the requirement that every gallon of gasoline be blended with ethanol at a 90/10 ratio. At the Renewable Fuels Association, we are working with colleagues in the industry and decision makers in Washington, DC, to increase the amount of ethanol that can be blended in conventional gasoline. Based in part on conversations with Obama Administration officials, we believe that EPA has the authority to move immediately to ethanol blends of 12% or 13% without adverse impacts on automobiles or air quality.

Such a move can occur while EPA reviews the merits of a formal waiver allowing ethanol blends of 15% — “E15.” It will provide gasoline refiners and marketers the flexibility to maximize ethanol blending while higher blend levels are explored and the infrastructure to dispense them is created.

As is often the case, the success of this industry has drawn the ire of industries that seek to maintain the status quo. Such a position is simply untenable, and the misinformation spread about ethanol must be met head on with the facts.

Often, we’re told that producing ethanol from grains decreases food supplies and increases food prices. But the fact is: American growers are the most productive the world has ever known. Last year, even with the 34% increase in U.S. ethanol production, growers produced the second largest corn crop on record, increased exports, fed more livestock than ever, and increased the amount of corn leftover from the year before. This was done, not by plowing up every acre but by harnessing the power of innovation — increasing corn yields by 400% since World War II — while planting the same number of acres.

The harvest currently underway may be the largest ever. Again, this unprecedented productivity comes against a backdrop of steadily increasing ethanol production and use.

The second big lie is that increased ethanol production in the U.S. is causing land use change in Africa and South America. But deforestation changes in land use are being caused by illegal logging practices, cattle ranching, and subsistence farming, not by a growing market for biofuels. In fact, deforestation has decreased as ethanol production has increased over the past several years.

Fortunately, there are vast amounts of arable land available for agriculture throughout the world. As the Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations has reported, there are 1.5 billion hectares of land used for arable and permanent crops — about 11% of the world’s area. But there are 2.8 billion hectares of unused land suitable for agriculture — almost twice as much land as is currently being farmed.

Future Needs

As much as we must focus on the tasks at hand, America’s ethanol producers are also setting their sights on the opportunities the future will hold.

Soon, there will be 3 billion cars on the road around the world, driving global oil consumption from 86 million to about 120 million barrels a day. The Earth doesn’t have that much oil, so the world will need renewable biofuels.

We can meet rising worldwide demand with the next generation of ethanol. U.S. ethanol producers are rapidly developing and commercializing technologies that use new feedstocks in addition to grain. These feedstocks include wood chips, corn cobs, native grasses, and plain old garbage.

But, just as with any new generation, the new generation of ethanol needs an older generation before it. Grain ethanol gives rise to the companies, the infrastructure, the trained and skilled workforce, the markets, the vehicles, and even the public policies that are so essential for next-generation ethanol technologies. As President Obama has said, the “transition to (the next generation) will be successful only if the first-generation biofuels industry remains viable in the near term.”

We can — and must — feed the world reliably and fuel our nation renewably. Together, American agriculture and the American ethanol industry are helping get the job done.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Crop Inputs Stories

Syngenta Seedcare Institute
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Opens New North America Seedcare Institute In Stanton, MN
September 23, 2016
Syngenta unveiled its new Seedcare Institute in Stanton, MN, during a recent grand opening celebration. More than 150 industry leaders, Read More
Crop InputsJim Loar Promoted To President And CEO Of Cool Planet
September 22, 2016
In a move that reflects and reinforces the company’s commitment to the agricultural market, the Cool Planet board of directors Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto, Bayer Officials Defend Proposed $66 Billion Merger
September 21, 2016
Top officials for Monsanto and Bayer defended their proposed $66 billion merger before skeptical senators on Tuesday, insisting that the Read More
Corn
Crop InputsEPA Settles With Syngenta For Alleged Multi-Regional Pesticide Violations
September 19, 2016
The U.S. EPA has announced a multi-region settlement with Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC (Syngenta) in Greensboro, NC, for alleged violations of Read More
Trending Articles
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Crop InputsBayer-Monsanto Mega-Merger: 6 Things You Need To Know
September 14, 2016
Mega mergers have become almost routine in the agricultural industry. Right on the heels of Monday’s news that fertilizer giants Potash Read More
Potash Corp Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium, Potash Corp To Merge To Create $36 Billion Company
September 12, 2016
Canada’s Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc. have agreed to combine in a deal that would create a Read More
Osage Co-op Elevator Osage, IA Finished Building
OpinionAre We Crazy?
September 8, 2016
At some point in the first few months of my employment here at CropLife® magazine, I started getting curious about Read More
ManagementMAGIE 2016 Highlights and Deere Anti-Trust
September 1, 2016
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses the recent Midwest AG Industries Exposition and the Department of Justice’s objection to John Deere Read More
ASMARK 2016 Retailers Live! Tour - CPS
CropLife 100CPS Acquires Texas Retail Operation
August 23, 2016
Crop Production Services (CPS) has acquired the assets of Larry’s Chemical and Spray, Inc., for an undisclosed amount in an Read More
Latest News
Engenia soybeans
Special ReportsResistant Weeds Continue To Confound Control Efforts
October 1, 2016
In the annals of weed scientists, 2017 will mark a milestone of sorts. This will be the 60th anniversary of Read More
CHS St. Paul, MN fertilizer terminal
CropLife 100Farmers Union Oil Co. Votes To Join CHS
September 30, 2016
Eligible voting members of Farmers Union Oil Co., a diversified agricultural retailer based out of Oslo, MN, have cast affirmative Read More
EmployeesOABA Program Develops Future Generation Of Agribusiness…
September 29, 2016
The Ohio AgriBusiness Association will select up to 25 promising leaders to participate in a leadership enhancement program early next Read More
ManagementThoughts on CropLife America and the PSM Appeal
September 29, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the recent CropLife America annual meeting and the successful appeal of the Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsMarrone Bio Innovations’ SVP And Chief Sustainability O…
September 29, 2016
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc., a leading provider of effective and environmentally responsible pest management and plant health products, announced today Read More
Young Corn Field
StewardshipStudy: Ohio Farmers Doing ‘A Good Job Of Managing…
September 27, 2016
Leaders from Ohio’s largest grain farming organizations announced today that Ohio farmers are doing their part in effectively managing phosphorus Read More
Growmark FS Outlet
Industry NewsGROWMARK To Purchase Suncor’s Share Of UPI
September 26, 2016
GROWMARK and Suncor have reached an agreement in which GROWMARK will purchase Suncor’s 50% interest in UPI, Inc. in Ontario, Read More
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Syngenta Seedcare Institute
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Opens New North America Seedcare Institute In …
September 23, 2016
Syngenta unveiled its new Seedcare Institute in Stanton, MN, during a recent grand opening celebration. More than 150 industry leaders, Read More
StewardshipMonsanto Invests $1.6 Million In System To Quantify Gre…
September 23, 2016
The USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) recently awarded the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and its Soil Health Read More
Pipe rack
LegislationCourt Sides With Ag Retailers On PSM
September 23, 2016
The D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act when Read More
ManagementPacific Coast Fertilizer Announces Interest In Longview…
September 22, 2016
Pacific Coast Fertilizer LP (PCF) announced at the Cowlitz Economic Development Council board of directors meeting its interest in developing Read More
Young corn plants in soil
UncategorizedCool Planet Raises Additional $9 Million To Commerciali…
September 22, 2016
Cool Planet has announced the first close of a new financing round to commercialize the company’s Cool Terra Engineered Biocarbon Read More
Crop InputsJim Loar Promoted To President And CEO Of Cool Planet
September 22, 2016
In a move that reflects and reinforces the company’s commitment to the agricultural market, the Cool Planet board of directors Read More
BlendersNorth Dakota Coop Debuts Dry Fertilizer Plant
September 22, 2016
North Central Grain Cooperative has begun operations at a new dry fertilizer plant at its Rolla, ND, site. It is Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto, Bayer Officials Defend Proposed $66 Billion M…
September 21, 2016
Top officials for Monsanto and Bayer defended their proposed $66 billion merger before skeptical senators on Tuesday, insisting that the Read More
ManagementUpcoming Shows & Recent Events
September 19, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about upcoming trade shows and events and review the Mid America CropLife Association Read More
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Appoints New CEO
September 19, 2016
Verdesian Life Sciences, a plant health and nutrition company, today announced that its board of directors has named Kenneth M. Avery Read More