Economics and Enthusiasm

By Susanne Retka Schill | March 05, 2012

Economics is the backdrop for this issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine. While there’s no debate that the ethanol industry has had an impact on the economy, opinions differ on just how big those numbers really are. Associate Editor Kris Bevill takes a look how Iowa’s ethanol industry has impacted the state’s economy. Bevill also digs into how the court decision that put California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard on hold is viewed by the industry. Erin Voegele, associate editor on our sister publication, Biorefining Magazine, writes about the economic opportunity in using ethanol as the feedstock for intermediary chemicals. Brazil producers are leading the way in that development. Rounding out our coverage this month,  Associate Editor Holly Jessen interviews biofuels economists at the Agriculture Marketing Resource Center who shed light on the history of the industry’s economic performance by drawing on data from several government agencies.    

While evaluating the numbers tells much, an industry is built by people. A couple of columns in the February issue prompted a reader—industry veteran Bugs Graham—to share his story. His enthusiasm is infectious.


Susanne Retka Schill, Editor


To the Editor:

After reading your editorial note and Mike Bryan’s column in the February issue, I decided to share a note I recently sent to my colleagues at Novozymes. There are not a lot of people that have been in the industry for 30-plus years, but each of us has a special story. In the early days before the Internet, one of the highlights of my month was receiving my copy of EPM.  The magazine was always full of insightful articles on how to improve production and yields, at a time when educational seminars and training programs were scarce. EPM and the Fuel Ethanol Workshop have played a big part in the advancement of the ethanol industry. Thanks for all you have done.

Story from a Fuel-a-holic
In 1979, I joined the American Agriculture Movement.  Our goal was to make farming a more sustainable industry by finding ways to increase farm profitability.  This group led me to join with other local farmers to build an ethanol plant in 1980—a farm still.  Our company was called Alcohol Cartel Inc. and our stated mission was to increase farm income.  We knew we needed government subsidies to get the ball rolling, but hoped one day we could survive without government support.

In 2007, as corn and milo prices skyrocketed, I spoke to a large group of farmers and proudly proclaimed that the ethanol industry’s dream of increasing grain prices is finally working.  It took time, patience and the support of the government to make this happen, but due to the increased use of corn and milo for ethanol, the grain, livestock, motor fuel and farming industries are now reaping the rewards.

I am even more pleased to say that in 2012, farmers are not only benefiting, the consumer is benefiting from cheaper motor fuel. Also, less pollutants are being emitted into the atmosphere due to the positive impact of ethanol.  The last thing I am thankful for is that now we can finally say that the ethanol industry can stand on its own without government subsidies.  We are creating thousands of jobs, adding strength to the economy, as well as creating a new market for agriculture products for both our use and abroad as we export ethanol and distillers grains. The U.S. ethanol industry is now feeding and fueling the world!

It’s been 32 years in the making with a lot of ups and downs. Boy, it has been quite a ride, but I can say I have truly enjoyed the journey. I love my job, my industry, and American ingenuity. My old daddy used to say, “Never under estimate the ability of the American farmer to provide.”

Bugs Graham
Account Manager
Novozymes North America Inc.
Franklinton NC