USDA deputy secretary speaks at Global Ethanol Summit

By Matt Thompson | October 15, 2019

Stephen Censky, deputy secretary of the USDA, delivered a keynote address during the second day of the Global Ethanol Summit on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

The focus of his presentation was on collaboration. He said that countries choosing to import U.S. ethanol is a “win-win situation. We see us ethanol exports as complementary to countries to meeting targets and moving forward.”

Censky used the Philippines as an example. That country, he said, is committed to its domestic ethanol production. But, in order to meet their blending and environmental targets, but “they also recognize that trade and imported ethanol can be very complementary to what they’re trying to achieve.”

In addition to supplying ethanol to other countries, Censky also said the U.S. can provide feedstocks as well, which will help those countries develop domestic distillers grains markets.

He also spoke to the efficiencies that U.S. ethanol producers and farmers have achieved, and what that may mean for the future of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “We think, with the technologies and efficiencies that are being achieved at ethanol plants today, as well as on the farm by U.S. farmers themselves by using no-till and cover crops and producing more with less, that we can actually have a 70 percent reduction [in GHGs] by 2022,” he said.

Censky also briefly spoke about recent developments in the U.S. ethanol market. Specifically, he spoke to a recent proposal to address small refinery exemptions in 2020. Recent SREs granted by the U.S. EPA have resulted in reducing domestic demand for ethanol below the 15 billion gallons required under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Censky said the proposed rule will ensure that “15 billion gallons means 15 billion gallons. That is not going to be undermined or diminished by small refinery exemptions.” He said under the proposed rule, EPA will project the number of gallons that will receive waivers and other blenders will be obligated to take up those gallons.

He also said USDA is in the early stages of developing programs to support the building of ethanol infrastructure and increasing ethanol sales. “That’s something that we have some history of doing within USDA,” Censky said.

During a meeting with media members, Censky said the Global Ethanol Summit is an important event for the U.S. ethanol industry. He said 90 percent of the ethanol produced in the U.S. is used domestically. “That 10 percent that we’re exporting is very, very important to the health of the industry—and to corn farmers and sorghum farmers and others—and it’s something that we aim to grow as well and we see some real potential in working with our partners around the globe to expand the sale of ethanol around the globe.”