View From The Hill

Eyes on the Road Ahead
By Bob Dinneen | January 01, 2008
January columns frequently take stock of the year that was, focusing on the events and achievements that defined that previous 12 months. The U.S. ethanol industry can certainly be proud of everything it accomplished in 2007.

For instance, the renewable fuels standard was fully implemented without incident and our industry surpassed the 7 billion-gallon capacity threshold, expanded the use and production of ethanol to states not familiar with our fuel, and saw ground broken on the first of many cellulosic ethanol plants. (I hope we are also celebrating an expanded RFS, but negotiations are still ongoing as of this writing.)

While 2007 proved to be a fruitful year, we also experienced firsthand what happens to industries that succeed faster and more robustly than its competitors would like. Chock full of misinformation, media report after media report blasted our industry for perceived shortcomings. Indeed, it felt like our industry was playing much more defense than offense.

To continue to achieve the kind of success our industry desires, we must keep our eyes focused on the road ahead and cannot concern ourselves too much with what happened in our rearview mirror. After all, 2008 will require our complete attention.

The continued development of new markets for ethanol blending will be a top concern for the Renewable Fuels Association and the industry. Great progress has been made in states like Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. Together with the expected expansion of ethanol blending in California, the demand for our product will no doubt continue to grow.

Rapid advancements in technology will unlock never-before dreamt horizons for the U.S. ethanol industry. Improved efficiencies at existing grain-based ethanol plants will further reduce water use, create new sources of fuel for the biorefineries themselves and increase ethanol yields from every bushel of grain.

Moreover, the investment by our industry, together with the federal government, will tremendous progress in the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol technology. 2008 will build upon the groundbreaking achievements we witnessed in 2007 by companies like Range Fuels, Abengoa Bioenergy and Poet. Indeed, there is tremendous opportunity for innovation in both traditional and next-generation ethanol production.

As domestic opportunities abound, a growing world ethanol industry will require increased attention. As more countries around the world seek to develop domestic ethanol, our industry and those of Canada, Brazil and Europe are in a leading position to foster growth and ensure a robust global ethanol industry. Likewise, we will also have to be mindful to ensure that efforts to develop a global trade in ethanol do not infringe or restrain the continued development of existing ethanol industries.

Last, but certainly not least, our industry has an opportunity to start telling its story. We have been under attack by those threatened by ethanol's growing role in energy and agriculture. This was to be expected. As we have grown, we have attracted a list of antagonists that represent some of the nation's least-liked industries. This attention should not be viewed through the lens of a victim, but rather as an opportunity for the U.S. ethanol industry to finally come together and speak with one voice about the economic, environmental and energy security necessity of a robust, domestic renewable fuels industry. Without question, that will be a focus in 2008.

I eagerly look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead and hope to see you on the road with us.

Bob Dinneen
President and CEO
Renewable Fuels Association