USGC joins Duckworth in Japan to discuss ethanol possibilities

By U.S. Grains Council | March 14, 2023

U.S. Grains Council staff and representatives from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board were accompanied by Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth to Tokyo, Japan in late February to meet with Japanese auto manufacturers, FAS Tokyo, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) officials to discuss Japan’s commitment to double ethanol consumption by 2030.

Imports of ethanol to Japan are in the form of ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) and the U.S. achieved market access following a change in Japan’s policy in 2018 and U.S. ethanol’s low carbon properties. The Council estimates U.S. ethanol totaled about 140 million gallons of ethanol in the form of ETBE during marketing year (MY) 2021/22.

“The U.S. industry’s most recent and previous missions continue to build on the momentum of Japan’s energy policies. It is paramount that ethanol is included in these lasting regulations that will not only benefit Japan, but also serve as an example for other countries interested in ethanol utilization,” said Isabelle Ausdal, USGC manager of global ethanol policy and economics.

Japan is in the process of revising its Energy Plan by April 2023, which will be the determining factor in the immediate uptake of ethanol in the country. Japan’s METI oversees Japan’s energy policy, which includes how ethanol is to be utilized in the country. The U.S. industry discussed different ways to incorporate ethanol blending directly into the gasoline supply at three (E3) to 10 percent (E10). The policy will be revised in April 2023 and is expected to allow full market access for U.S. corn ethanol.

“Ethanol blending in Japan is estimated to be equivalent to less than E2 but utilizing higher blends of ethanol such as E10 will enable Japan to realize all the carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction benefits. Japan’s accelerated efforts to reduce its emissions through the use of scientifically proven low carbon fuels such as ethanol is a testament to how far policy can come when a country rises to the occasion,” Ausdal said.

In addition to creating market access for U.S. ethanol, the mission was also a time to discuss sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the carbon reduction benefits of ethanol and the reliability of the U.S. ethanol supply. Representatives from Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Boeing were present at a biofuels panel hosted by the U.S. embassy to hear from ICMB and other industry representatives about ways to utilize corn ethanol-based SAF within their policies.

“Visits by the U.S. corn and ethanol industries to meet with the Japanese government and industry are an important step for the Council to work on creating a higher blending market in Japan,” said USGC Director in Japan Tommy Hamamoto.