History shows ethanol isn’t going anywhere

Source: By Daryl Haack, Des Moines Register • Posted: Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Corn remains king in Iowa, but a look at recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows soybean production is increasing in the Hawkeye State.

The “futurist” Francis Thicke, in an Aug. 22 op-ed, suggests that corn ethanol may soon disappear. [“Ethanol is heading toward obsolescence. Iowa will need a new plan“]

He might want to take a page out of the U.S. energy history book.

We’ve been hearing that electric vehicles will “soon” take over the transportation market since the oil embargos of the 1970s. Forty years later, electric cars still make up only a miniscule percentage of on-road vehicles. While renewable fuels supporters welcome new, innovative technology in the transportation sector, corn farmers like me remember the 30 years it took ethanol to become an “overnight success.”

The ethanol industry has been extremely vital to our state by creating new jobs, stabilizing the economy and providing a cleaner burning, homegrown fuel choice for consumers.

Today, ethanol makes up 10 percent of our national gasoline pool, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a huge movement toward the use of E15, a fuel blend containing 15 percent ethanol. E15 is offered at more than 900 locations in 29 states, including nearly 130 locations here in Iowa.

This is occurring because fuel retailers across the nation are making significant investments in their fueling systems to offer higher blends of ethanol, because they, too, see the benefits and longevity of utilizing ethanol blends.

Putting on my futurist hat, I can see that modern seed technology and farming practices enable Iowa farmers to harvest record yields using less inputs and without expanding farmland acres. New efficiencies adopted by Iowa ethanol plants show through the USDA’s latest study that ethanol reduces greenhouse gases by 43 percent compared to petroleum, and has the potential to grow to greater than 50 percent in the coming years.

There’s no doubt we live in an exciting age of American energy production. While I’m no “futurist,” I see ethanol continuing to be an important player in the U.S. energy portfolio for a 21st century world.

DARYL HAACK is a board member for the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and a former president of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.