These are trying times in ethanol

Source: By Terry Anderson, Midwest Producer News Editor • Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013

OMAHA, Neb. – Sparring on gridlocked Capitol Hill is wearing on those involved, but it could be worse.

“It’s tough in D.C., and if you’re in ethanol, it’s worse,” said Steve Bleyl, with Green Plains Renewable Energy in Omaha. “It wears you down, so you have to have faith.”

Bleyl was one of the speakers at the “Ethanol 2013: Emerging Issues Forum,” held April 18-19 at Omaha’s Magnolia Hotel. The Nebraska Ethanol Board organizes the annual event.

Bleyl shared a panel discussion on the Impact of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) on Ethanol Markets with Ron Lamberty of the American Coalition for Ethanol.

“There’s a rotocall in Iowa today,” Bleyl said, “telling them how ethanol is ruining their engines.”

Lamberty said that as the ethanol industry has gotten close to the blend wall, “all these stories are repeated enough that people believe them. It took 60 years to get lead out of gasoline. The behavior of these folks hasn’t changed.”

The damaged-engine stories have been told for years. “It’s that black box that no one wants to understand,” Bleyl said.

Ethanol usage has been about 10 percent of the U.S. market, with the 10 percent ethanol blend holding strong and the E85 sales balancing non-ethanol sales.

“We’re challenging a big number that they don’t want to give up,” Bleyl said of the big oil companies. “I don’t mind them making money. That’s what we’re all here for.”

Doug Durante, with the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, added, “Imagine what it would be like if there were taxes involved.”

The ethanol industry hasn’t produced like some envisioned.

“Cellulosic production was supposed to be 1 billion gallons in 2013,” Durante said. “Reality is 14 million gallons in 2012 and 2013. It’s isn’t hard to see it’s not meeting the requirement.”

He added that if everyone used E15, it still wouldn’t make a difference.

“E30 may be the sweet spot,” he said. “It could add six points to octane and there wouldn’t be as much mileage reduction as E85.”

He noted the continuous bad publicity for ethanol and said it’s time to stop pounding the table and start working with others.

Considering the industry clashes, Lamberty quipped, “If you want to feel good, go online and look up hot rods and E85. They really like us.”