Fuels America study reveals positive impact of biofuels

By Erin Voegele | April 24, 2014

The Fuels American coalition recently released an economic impact study that demonstrates the economic benefits of biofuels on a state-by-state basis. The analysis, completed by John Dunham & Associates, takes into account the entire supply chain for renewable fuels and quantifies the impact to the economy.

During a conference call to announce the study, Hon Doggett, vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association, noted that ethanol biodiesel and other biofuels currently represent about 10 percent of the nation’s fuel supply. As a result of these fuels, he said oil imports are falling to the lowest levels in decades.

“The renewable fuels industry now supports more than $184 billion of economic output. It supports more than 852,000 jobs in over $56 billion in wages and it generates about $14.5 billion in local and state tax revenue every year,” Doggett said.

The impact of biofuels, however, goes far beyond the numbers, Doggett continued. He explained that the renewable fuels standard (RFS) and biofuel production has helped allow more kids to join their family farming operations. The RFS and ethanol gives farmers a way to pass their operations on to their children, he said. Doggett also stressed that these benefits are happening without government subsidy, as the ethanol tax credit expired two years ago.

Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes North America, noted that the rise of the U.S. biofuels industry has happened over a very short period of time, and the RFS is a big reason for that. The RFS spurred one of the most ambitious research and development projects in Novozymes’ history, he said. As a result of that work, the company built a $200 million enzymes facility in Nebraska. “Today that facility is up and running and it is not only providing the latest cutting edge enzymes for corn and grain-based ethanol, but it is also producing enzymes for the advanced biofuels facilities that are now starting to be constructed and coming online across the country,” Monroe said.

Monroe estimated that the Nebraska facility currently employs more than 110 individuals, with four times that many people working in jobs that provide services to the plant. In addition to the Nebraska plant, Novozymes also employs research and development scientists in California and is developing a new R&D facility in North Carolina.

With regard to backlash against the RFS, Monroe said the oil industry is worried about protecting its market share. “I hope and encourage both the EPA and Congress to maintain the RFS as we know it because it is a tremendous success story,” he continued.

Larry Ward, senior vice president of project development at Poet LLC, also spoke during the call. Poet currently operates 27 biorefineries with a combined annual production capacity of approximately 1.6 billion gallons, he said. Those plants provide good paying, highly technical jobs in rural communities that cannot be outsourced, he continued.

Ward spoke about employment, economic and educational opportunities created by the ethanol industry. He also spoke about the ethanol industry’s positive impact on family farming and rural communities. “At Poet, and with our plants, we take very seriously as active, positive members in the local business community and really providing a way to participate in these communities, because we are employing people in the local area and we are proud to participate with them in being able to revitalize agriculture,” he said.

Ward also offered an update of Poet-DSM’s Project Liberty plant under development in Emmetsburg, Iowa, noting construction is expected to be complete this quarter.

“Already in Emmetsburg, we have seen new farm equipment dealerships open up, we’ve seen other businesses in the town open up. We’ve had over 500 construction jobs at one time in this facility in a small rural agricultural area. We have seen young people eager to get involved with agriculture, coming back to town, opening up businesses, understanding that they can participate on their family farm and in their family agricultural operations for the long-term. It’s very exciting,” Ward said. “We’ve seen ethanol production has been a boon in America. It’s the biggest thing to happen to agriculture and rural business in decades, and we are proud to be a part of that movement.”

The study completed by John Dunham & Associates breaks down the economic impact of renewable fuels by state, and by congressional district within a particular state. Results of the study can be found here