The Way I See It

U.S. ethanol industry has great potential to expand outside this country
By Mike Bryan | April 23, 2007
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All eyes seem to be on the United States and the potential for other countries to export ethanol to help fill U.S. demand. I have always been a bit curious why our domestic ethanol industry doesn't have more of a focus on exporting ethanol to other countries. It seems to me that such a strategy could have positive ramifications on U.S. policy and project financing, along with a host of other benefits.

There are countries all around the world that import almost 100 percent of their energy requirements. Wouldn't it make just as much sense, given the cost of petroleum, for these countries to import a clean-burning replacement for fossil fuel? Numerous countries are already importing ethanol from Brazil, but why not from the United States or Canada?

I keep hearing that we have a glut, investors are cautious because we may have too much ethanol, and corn prices are too high. It seems far less a matter of too much ethanol, and more a matter of a lack of international market development. Some say our domestic ethanol industry can't compete with the price of Brazilian ethanol. Balderdash! We can compete. In building a world market, we will force more production that will compel us to begin taking advantage of a variety of underused feedstocks while inventing new and innovative methods to reduce production costs. At over $2.50 a gallon, there seems to be little incentive to spend money to make ethanol from corn better, faster and cheaper. We have, in large part, given up on corn-based ethanol cost reductions and now have turned our focus to cellulose.

Some have the opinion that we are entering the sunset years of corn-to-ethanol production. Whether that's true or not, one thing I do know is that there are abundant quantities of other starch and sugar-based feedstocks that we have paid little attention to. We need to work to develop cost-effective production technologies for using them.

The entire world is focused on stemming global warming. There has never been a time in history when the environment has been a more predominant topic on the political and public agenda of countries around the world. Call me crazy, but it would certainly seem to me that such a phenomenon spells opportunity for an industry that is in the business of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. ethanol industry has production potential that surpasses any country in the world. It's time for us to think outside the box, or in this case think outside our borders, and assume our rightful place in the international ethanol market.

Mike Bryan
Publisher & CEO
mbryan@bbibiofuels.com