US ethanol industry leaders seek greater support

Source: By  Christie Moffat, ICIS • Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2016

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (ICIS)–The US ethanol industry is struggling in the wake of diminished support from lawmakers and ineffective regulations, industry experts said on Monday at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in Milwaukee.

Speaking during the Ethanol 101 workshop, Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers executive director Mark Palmer said that in recent years the makeup of Congress has shifted rapidly, with roughly 40% now comprised of relatively new members.

During the 2000s, when the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) was first proposed and adopted by Congress, the ethanol industry had established strong connections with politicians to help advocate for fuel ethanol blending standards and requirements.

As various members have retired or moved on, the ethanol industry has found itself in a position where there are fewer ethanol advocates in Congress than there used to be – making it difficult to get support from lawmakers.

In order to regain political support, the industry needed to embrace grassroots advocacy and empowerment, Palmer said.

Similar thoughts were echoed by National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center executive director John Caupert, who suggested that ethanol had a public relations problem, based on bad science, public misunderstanding of environmental issues, and complex truths.

Caupert also criticised the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which he claimed had “grossly overstepped their lead” in regulating the RFS.

In May, the EPA released its draft proposal for 2017 renewable fuel volume requirements under the RFS, which were widely criticised by the ethanol industry for being too low.

Prior to this, the EPA retroactively finalised the renewable fuel volume requirements for the calendar years of 2014, 2015 and 2016 in November last year.

Caupert noted that the renewable volume obligations set by the EPA, anti-E15 and anti-RFS amendments proposed in recent years and a lack of research and development funds in the 2014 Farm Bill had all contributed to a loss of investment from the private sector.

The International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo conference runs 20-23 June in Milwaukee.