New President, Same Path

Ethanol Producer Magazine's Editor in Chief shares his thoughts on the incoming adminstration, and comments on features in his Editor's Note that appears in the February print edition.
By Tom Bryan | January 26, 2017

The ethanol industry was ostensibly split on the presidential election, and we should assume Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton received roughly equivalent support from our sector. All in all, both ag-based and renewable industries were leery of Trump because he reflected change and unpredictability. His aggressive trade reform rhetoric, in particular, was somewhat concerning to our industry, which is enjoying near-record exports and tends to overcome trade spats on its own. Now, with Trump in the White House, we are holding the president to his word on protecting ethanol, and hoping his hard-charging ways work to our advantage over the next four years.  

Not long ago, an ethanol plant CEO told me, quite bluntly, that President Obama was “absolutely terrible for biofuels,” and that it would be hard to do worse under Trump. You’ll see that sort of sentiment reflected, directly and indirectly, in our page-28 cover story on our industry’s political shake-up under Trump. As EPM’s Ann Bailey reports in “Trumping Obama on Biofuels,” the ethanol industry is hoping that the new president’s pro-business, anti-regulation leanings help us expand E15 while supplying more fuel and feed to consumers with less draconian regulation. Trade reformation, too, could be good for ethanol and distillers grains exports, but that largely depends on China. 

Last month, I said our industry will be fine under Trump, and I meant it. It’s appropriate that we are cautiously supportive of the president, but we should not lend our confidence to his cabinet picks. The men Trump has selected to run the U.S. EPA and DOE, Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry, respectively, have been unfriendly to ethanol—or at least the renewable fuel standard (RFS)—in the past. Pruitt and Perry are good Americans, but it’s a stretch to play these guys off as positive for biofuels. If Pruitt is confirmed, I think we’d all be happy if his EPA simply didn’t disrupt the current trajectory of the RFS. Our appeal to Pruitt should be akin to the Hippocratic Oath—“first, do no harm,” please.

Speaking of doing no harm, our industry’s incredible reduction of water use is the subject of our page-36 feature. In “Water: Lifeblood of the Process,” EPM’s Susanne Retka Schill reports on how today’s complex water reduction and recycling strategies must carefully account for downstream system impacts, while protecting the process.

Then, in “Pelleted Feed Innovation from Nebraska,” on page 42, you’ll find out why ethanol plants are being tapped by enhanced feed product companies trying to capitalize on the ready-made inputs of DDGS and corn stover. Another story about coproduct innovation, “Ethanol, CO2 and Concrete Cement a Relationship,” on page 48, explains how a Canadian company is using ethanol plant carbon dioxide to strengthen and add value to concrete. Heavy reading, indeed.

Author: Tom Bryan
President & Editor in Chief
[email protected]