USGC: Ethanol export promotion swinging into action

By U.S. Grains Council | June 09, 2016

The U.S. Grains Council and its partners at the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service are picking up momentum on promoting U.S. ethanol exports around the globe.

Examples of the work that the group has undertaken to build demand for U.S. fuel ethanol include a workshop in Japan aimed at paving the way for new market access, close coordination with a USDA mission to Mexico focused on local policy, an upcoming workshop in Korea and a future assessment in Vietnam.

In Japan, the council and its partners have been working to show local policymakers and industry representatives that the U.S. ethanol industry can meet their fuel oxygenate needs. To help dispel myths about U.S. ethanol and open the door for the renewable fuel in the Japanese market, the Council hosted a workshop in Tokyo in May.

“We presented a number of analyses that showed that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for corn ethanol have reductions of 50 to 100 percent compared to a petroleum baseline,” said Stefan Unnasch, Life Cycle Associates senior partner, who presented during the conference.

“This means that more than 80 corn ethanol plants in the United States could comply with Japan’s requirement of 50 percent GHG reductions. The audience asked many good questions and we were very happy to provide this information.”

The group left Japan feeling confident that they had made progress toward showing these audiences that U.S. corn ethanol can be used as part of Japan’s diversified energy matrix.

In late May, the Council, RFA and Growth Energy participated in a U.S. ethanol mission to Mexico that was led by USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse.

“During the mission we learned that much work has already been done within the Mexican government to push the agenda for climate change,” said USGC Director in Mexico Ryan LeGrand, who participated in the planning for the mission and the team that accompanied Scuse.

“Ethanol is one source of clean energy that is being seriously evaluated within the ranks of Mexican regulators and legislators. USGC staff members in Mexico are willing and ready to assist them with any educational material or activities needed in order to prove the positive benefits of ethanol as it relates to climate change.”

While it remains to be seen if Mexico will meet its rising fuel needs with U.S. ethanol, this mission was a step forward that laid the groundwork for future ethanol export promotion programs in that market.

Looking ahead, the council and its partners are finalizing plans to cohost with the USDA’s FAS agricultural affairs office in Seoul an ethanol workshop that will promote the use of the fuel in that country’s energy matrix.

“During the workshop, we will cover the global ethanol outlook, air quality and GHG reduction benefits of ethanol, and engine performance aspects of ethanol,” said USGC Chief Economist Mike Dwyer, who will be participating in the workshop. “By discussing these topics with Korean government officials, research groups, the domestic petroleum industry, media and non-government organizations, we hope to establish positive relationships that will benefit U.S. ethanol exports in years to come.”

Prior to the workshop, a small team will travel to Vietnam to review that country’s progress towards developing its cassava-based ethanol industry. The group will also seek to assess the industry’s long-term potential and to better understand how U.S. ethanol may play a role in the government’s energy policies.

“Vietnam has set up its ethanol policy with a roadmap to promote E5 blending nationwide,” Dwyer said. “However, the country’s progress in producing ethanol has been disappointing due to myriad challenges at its plants and among consumers—which could give U.S. ethanol an opportunity in this market. However, we need to better understand the market landscape in Vietnam and why its consumers have been reluctant to switch to an E5 blend.”

Upon the group’s return to the United States, the Council and its industry partners will determine how to best serve the particular needs of this market based on the information gathered.

Click here to learn more about U.S. ethanol production.