Turning Another Corner

I have covered the ethanol industry since the 1970’s when it was called gasohol. Despite one obstacle after another what this industry has achieved is amazing. From the early days of farmers meeting to decide if they would take the chance to invest and build an ethanol plant to taking on the powerful oil industry the ethanol industry has come a long ways. The road however has not been easy. False rumors often taken as fact and lack of support at times by our own government have presented one challenge after another. Still the industry continues forward. 2019 was one of the most challenging years for ethanol producers but still the industry last year supported nearly 350,000 jobs and generated almost $43 billion in gross domestic product. Ethanol has become a big part of our economy especially in rural America. This year the industry hopes to turn yet another corner and rebound from last year’s struggles. Much of that hope comes from the recent court ruling against EPA’s handling of some waivers to the Renewable Fuels Standard. Ethanol producers hope that ruling will set a precedent for future EPA decisions and stop the damage being done by undermining the RFS. Another area for hope this year is in exports. New trade deals, especially with China, may open the door for exports of ethanol and DDGs that would provide a much needed boost to the bottom line for ethanol producers. Ironically the third area of optimism comes from California. That state’s low carbon fuel policy, once considered a threat to ethanol, now serves as a template for other states to use in developing similar policies. As the focus on climate change intensifies, these low carbon policies offer an opportunity for increased ethanol use to meet these new standards. Even as many look to greater use of electric and battery powered options in the future, the already established ethanol industry is poised to be a major energy player in these increasingly environmentally sensitive times. Still ethanol producers know the road ahead won’t be easy. History tells them many challenges, both known and unknown, lie ahead. As they turn yet another corner in 2020 they hope the light ahead will lead them to prosperity and not be another train threatening to run them over.