A View from the Hill

Don't Lose Site
By Bob Dineen | February 01, 2006
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President Kennedy once said, "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

Certainly, we will always view 2005 as a year of great achievement, commercially and politically. More ethanol was blended into gasoline than ever before. A dozen plants opened, adding more than 700 million gallons of capacity. Another 30 plants representing 1.8 billion gallons of capacity began construction. Landmark energy legislation created a nationwide renewable fuels standard that promises to forever change the landscape of the U.S. motor fuels market.

But to rest on that success, either here in Washington, D.C., or in ethanol plants across the country, would be a tragic mistake, precluding an otherwise promising future for renewable fuels.

The U.S. ethanol industry is changing. It isn't your father's ethanol industry anymore. It isn't confined to the traditional Corn Belt or relegated to boutique fuel status. It is now a ubiquitous component of the U.S. motor fuels market.

As we begin a new year, ethanol refineries are being built in every region of the country, from California to Texas to New York to Florida, and yes, across the Midwest.

The unprecedented growth and legislative success of the past year are bringing new people, new capital, new technology, new ideas and new enthusiasm to an industry that is already brimming in innovation. Just ask Bill Gates or Richard Branson.

But to rest on the accomplishments of last year would be to miss the opportunities of the future. More and more gallons will open up to ethanol as MTBE hemorrhages the market. E85 use will expand as automakers accelerate their FFV production and marketing (nice ads, Ford & GM!). Ethanol-fueled hybrid electric vehicles are just around the corner, and ethanol fuel cells are on the way.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are paying attention. They not only see what is happening in this country with ethanol and biodiesel, but they also see what is happening worldwide with crude oil supplies dwindling in the face of rising demand from China. They know the United States will need to expand domestic renewable resources to survive an energy-starved future. Already, several bills have been introduced in Congress to increase the use of ethanol and biodiesel. They continue to keep the dialogue moving forward and the focus on a more sustainable energy future.

While some good days lay behind us, the best days lie ahead. And we are committed to never losing sight of the future.

Bob Dinneen
President and CEO
Renewable Fuels Association