Interagency effort provides links to biofuel data on one Web page

By Susanne Retka Schill | April 07, 2016

Biofuel number crunchers in the know are finding their jobs easier because of a website hosted by the USDA Economic Research Service where the Interagency Council on Agricultural & Rural Statistics pulls together links to government data from multiple sources on one page. The Biofuels Data Sources matrix is a collaborative effort of the ERS and the DOE Energy Information Administration covering both ethanol and biodiesel.  

Data sources includes the USDA, the U.S. DOE, EPA, the Census Bureau and the International Trade Commission. The matrix provides 66 links to relevant agency reports, broken out in categories (thus some reports are listed twice). It also describes the reports, gives the frequency and indicates the data sources and methods.

In addition to links to the well-known USDA corn databases and the more recent Grain Crushings and Co-Products Production monthly reports, there are links to survey-based state-level ethanol and biodiesel reports that provide weekly yield and price data for the fuels and coproducts compiled by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. That includes selected prices reported in the weekly National Biomass Reporter at various locations for cornstalks, wheat straw, milo stalks and several grasses.

Supply and use charts cover biofuels, feedstocks and coproducts and there are links to reports tracking stocks of biofuels and feedstocks, along with projections and monthly data related to the renewable fuel standard (RFS). Trade data sources listed include multiple reports from the EIA for imports and exports, as well as the U.S. trade data for biofuels compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and followed by agencies such as the International Trade Commission, Department of Commerce and Foreign Agricultural Service. 

Other available ICARS datasets cover land use and land cover estimates, natural resources datasets, rural data and food-related data sources.

The ICARS bioenergy data matrix first came out about 18 months ago, “but it seems few people know about it,” said Tom Capehart, ERS senior economist who serves as the ERS liaison for the interagency effort.

Capehart also oversees a dataset on the ERS website that includes 19 tables tracking biofuel supply and disappearance, feedstocks, coproducts, infrastructure, prices for ethanol and biodiesel. Capehart said the Grain Crushings and Co-Products Production will be added in the next few months.  Most tables are updated monthly. Many include both several years of data with quarterly and yearly totals, including data that is sometimes hard to find, such as DDGS supply and disappearance starting in 1992 or ethanol capacity utilization rates.

Many tables are sources of historical data. For example, the ethanol capacity utilization table shows nameplate capacity in 2006 at 4.3 MMgy and the utilization rate was 1.13, compared to 2015’s capacity of 14.76 MMgy and 1.0 utilization rate. The capacity and utilization rates are broken down in another table by state.

One interesting table gives the historical record for fuel ethanol, corn and gasoline prices by month. It starts in January 1982 when corn was $2.54 per bushel. Ethanol was $1.75 per gallon and gasoline was $1.04 per gallon. The blender cost of ethanol with credit was $1.15 and the corn cost per gallon of ethanol calculated at 94 cents. In comparison, more than 30 years later, the price of corn in February was $3.57, the price of ethanol $1.46 and the price of gasoline $1.02 per gallon. The blenders’ tax credit is gone, so there’s no change in the blender cost. The corn cost per gallon of ethanol in 2016 is $1.32.  The footnotes to the table explain ethanol yield uses 1 bushel of corn yielding 2.7 gallons of ethanol and the fuel prices are Omaha-based.