Fighting Misinformation One Fact at a Time

RFA's president and CEO highlights key facts from the organization's annual industry outlook handbook in the View from the Hill column that appears in the April print issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine.
By Bob Dinneen | March 29, 2017

In our industry, facts are sacrosanct. You cannot fight misinformation, mistruths or alternative facts with anything other than the truth. And that’s where our “2017 Ethanol Industry Outlook” comes in handy.

Our annual handbook, released at the 22nd Annual National Ethanol Conference in February, provides readers with statistics, insight and analysis on the latest facts of the U.S. ethanol industry. The handbook dives into specifics, providing hard-hitting facts to refute against inaccurate information. Some examples:

• 200 operating ethanol biorefineries in 28 states produced a record 15.25 billion gallons of high-octane renewable fuel in 2016, along with roughly 42 million metric tons of high-protein animal feed.

• The production of 15.25 billion gallons of ethanol supported 74,420 direct jobs in renewable fuel production and agriculture in 2016, as well as 264,756 indirect and induced jobs across all sectors of the economy.

• Corn ethanol from a typical dry mill reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent compared to gasoline, according to a new analysis conducted for the USDA—even when hypothetical land use change emissions are included. Data from USDA and EPA show that agricultural land use is actually shrinking, undermining the indirect land use change theory. The USDA study found that by 2022, corn ethanol could reduce GHG by 76 percent compared to gasoline.

• Net petroleum dependence was 25 percent in 2016, but would have been 33 percent without the addition of 15.25 billion gallons of ethanol to the fuel supply. Looked at another way, 2016 ethanol production displaced an amount of gasoline refined from 540 million barrels of crude oil.

• U.S. ethanol and cellulosic ethanol production continues to expand. For example, Quad County Corn Processors, near Galva, Iowa, surpassed the 5 million-gallon threshold for cellulosic ethanol production in September 2016, while other ethanol producers, including Pacific Ethanol, Little Sioux Corn Processors and Flint Hills Resources, adopted “bolt on” technologies in 2016 that will allow them to produce both starch-based and cellulosic ethanol from the same kernel.

• The U.S. ethanol industry exported more than 1 billion gallons in 2016, the second-highest annual total on record. Canada and Brazil remained the U.S. ethanol industry’s top export customers in 2016, with the two countries combining to receive roughly half of total shipments. In the meantime, U.S. fuel ethanol imports hit a six-year low, registering at less than 40 million gallons.

• One-third of every bushel of grain that enters the ethanol process is enhanced and returned to the feed market, most often in the form of distillers grains, corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal. Only the starch portion of the grain is made into ethanol. U.S. ethanol producers exported roughly 11.5 million metric tons of distillers grains in 2016, with China, Mexico and Vietnam the top three export markets.

The handbook also provides valuable data and talking points on higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85, ethanol’s octane benefits and the fallacy of the so-called “food versus fuel” argument.

When Big Oil trots out falsehoods about ethanol, I want to make sure our industry is armed with the facts. Ethanol is the cleanest, lowest-cost, highest-octane source of fuel in the world. The facts trump empty rhetoric every time. When in doubt, go to the “2017 Ethanol Industry Outlook.”
To view a copy of our handbook, click here

Author: Bob Dinneen
President and CEO,
Renewable Fuels Association