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
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
FungicidesSudden Death Syndrome, Brown Stem Rot Reported In Indiana Soybeans
September 3, 2014
Farmers and retailers should be watching for symptoms of these two diseases over the next few weeks as they are best managed through preventative methods. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More
ManagementRetail Week: Precision survey, a technology acquisition…
March 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sflilgoj discuss recent travel, the upcoming precision adoption survey, and an unusual sighting at a Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Launching TerraGrow Soil Inoculant
March 20, 2015
TerraGrow is a blend of beneficial bacterial and fungal spores and nutrients carefully designed to promote healthier soil and crops. Read More
Winter Wheat
AdjuvantsMax Systems Debuts New Adjuvant NanoRevolution 2.0
March 18, 2015
Added to a tank mix of glyphosate at the conservative rate of two to four ounces per acre, NanoRevolution 2.0 has proven effective in killing resistant weed species that had already had up to two applications of the leading glyphosate product. Read More
Photo credit: United Soybean Board/the Soybean Checkoff
Seed/BiotechAgnition Launches Microbial Catalyst Seed Treatment
March 18, 2015
Agnition it has launched Commence for Soybeans, a microbial catalyst seed treatment for soybeans that stimulates microbial activity for healthier soil and a superior growth environment. Read More
4R Certified, Nutrient Stewardship Council,
StewardshipTyler Grain & Fertilizer Now 4R Certified
March 18, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Tyler Grain & Fertilizer Co. in Smithville, OH, has been added to Read More