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

FertilizerGypsum Added To List Of Conservation Practices
July 28, 2016
Crop farmers in a growing number of states may be eligible for financial assistance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesStudy: Fall Weed Controls Can Make Significant Impact On Glyphosate-Resistant Palmer Amaranth
July 28, 2016
An article published in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science shows that adopting harvest-time and post-harvest weed controls Read More
InsecticidesSyngenta: Beware Of Early Stinkbug Threat To Soybeans
July 28, 2016
With the record warm temperatures this past winter and confirmations from early entomologist reports, Syngenta encourages growers to monitor stinkbug Read More
Peanut field
Crop InputsVerdesian Introduces New Inoculant For Peanuts
July 28, 2016
As planning begins for the next growing season, Verdesian Life Sciences adds Primo Power CL, a new liquid inoculant, to Read More
Trending Articles
Southeast Farmers Coop - Finished Building
Retail FacilitiesNew Stueve Facilities Offer Ag Retailers Speed, Accuracy
July 9, 2016
Leading the industry in planning and constructing dry fertilizer storage and chemical warehouse solutions, Stueve Construction helped three ag retailers Read More
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Latest News
FertilizerGypsum Added To List Of Conservation Practices
July 28, 2016
Crop farmers in a growing number of states may be eligible for financial assistance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Read More
Management2016 CTIC Cover Crop Survey: 33% Report ROI From Cover …
July 28, 2016
Insight from 2,020 farmers from across the country reflected enthusiasm for cover crops and—for the fourth year in a row—found Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesStudy: Fall Weed Controls Can Make Significant Impact O…
July 28, 2016
An article published in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science shows that adopting harvest-time and post-harvest weed controls Read More
InsecticidesSyngenta: Beware Of Early Stinkbug Threat To Soybeans
July 28, 2016
With the record warm temperatures this past winter and confirmations from early entomologist reports, Syngenta encourages growers to monitor stinkbug Read More
Peanut field
Crop InputsVerdesian Introduces New Inoculant For Peanuts
July 28, 2016
As planning begins for the next growing season, Verdesian Life Sciences adds Primo Power CL, a new liquid inoculant, to Read More
Soil Young Corn
Crop InputsSmithsonian: 5 Things to Know About New GMO Labeling Bi…
July 27, 2016
On July 14, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring large food companies to label products containing genetically modified Read More
Palmer pigweed in soybean stubble
HerbicidesSpecial Issue Of Weed Science Explores Human Aspects Of…
July 27, 2016
Weeds that evolve resistance to herbicides are a serious threat to global agricultural production. In this Special Issue of Weed Science, Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100CHS Businesses In Washington, Idaho Combining For Great…
July 27, 2016
As full-service ag retailers, CHS Primeland and CHS Farmers Co-op collectively serve farmers and other customers in 15 counties in Read More
Storage Tanks at Nachurs
Crop InputsNACHURS Joins Field to Market
July 27, 2016
NACHURS announced today that it has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a leading multi-stakeholder initiative working Read More
Illinois Researchers
FertilizerMeasure Of Age In Soil Nitrogen Could Help Precision Ag…
July 26, 2016
What’s good for crops is not always good for the environment. Nitrogen, a key nutrient for plants, can cause problems Read More
Kochia
Crop InputsNufarm Launches New Herbicide for Resistant Kochia
July 25, 2016
Nufarm introduces Scorch herbicide for U.S. farmers and ranchers combating a broad range of troublesome broadleaf weeds. A unique premix Read More
ManagementNew Rabobank Report Calls for Farmer ROI Focus
July 25, 2016
As U.S. row crop farmers brace themselves for a third year of negative margins, Rabobank believes farmers must lower the Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsBloomberg: Syngenta-Chem China Deal on Track for Regula…
July 25, 2016
Syngenta AG, which has agreed to be taken over by China National Chemical Corp. for $43 billion, said talks with Read More
ManagementGROWMARK Meeting Visit, Company Takeover Updates, and R…
July 22, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent speaking engagement at GROWMARK’s eastern event, crop protection company merger rumors, Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto: EU Approves Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Imports
July 22, 2016
Monsanto Co. announced today that the European Commission has granted import approval for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. This milestone Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Alfalfa Seed Split Off
July 22, 2016
On September 1, 2016, Syngenta will transfer sales and distribution of alfalfa seed to the NEXGROW branded business that is Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDuPont, Dow Shareholders Approve Merger
July 21, 2016
DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company announced that, at their respective special meetings of stockholders held today, stockholders of both Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Oth…
July 20, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN, and its leadership. SUSTAIN will focus Read More