The U.S. ethanol industry has overcome tremendous odds to become a modern success story. However, it is now facing its biggest threat yet. A trade war followed by a global oil war followed by a global pandemic has shut down half of our ethanol production facilities and is negatively impacting our rural economies. COVID 19 is doing what Big Oil and its supporters could not do. A shuttered economy has destroyed fuel demand leaving ethanol producers with no market and no help.
To make matters worse, our own government seems content so far to let it happen. While needed assistance is being sent to others, the calls for help from the ethanol industry have fallen on deaf ears. Yes, an infrastructure grant program has finally been announced but it will help in the future while ethanol producers are struggling to survive the present.
Historically our own government has never fully supported the biofuels industry. Even last year when the government finally allowed E 15 sales year round it was more than offset by the granting of small refinery exemptions to the RFS. Speaking of the Renewable Fuels Standard, it has constantly been under attack and under-protected. Every step forward the ethanol industry has struggled to achieve has been followed by an even bigger hurdle to overcome. The question now is whether our own government will let an important domestic industry go under.
Obviously the biofuels industry is not alone in needing assistance but it does seem alone when assistance is being given. Even as some ethanol producers stepped forward to produce alcohol for much-needed hand sanitizers, the government stepped in with more red tape to make it difficult for them to do so. Despite producing fuel, animal feed, CO2, and other essential products, the ethanol industry doesn’t seem considered essential by our own government.
Given a chance, ethanol plants will continue to diversify and produce new products and provide more jobs. Hopefully, help will come. In the meantime, we are seeing small increases in fuel demand as our economy starts to reopen. As much as direct assistance is needed the biggest help will come when the word finally goes out for America to start its engines again. Engines fueled in part by domestically produced renewable fuels.