On the Road Again

By Bob Dinneen | September 23, 2013

At the end of every summer, while Congress is in recess and the U.S. Capital is a ghost town, I enjoy getting outside the Beltway to take the pulse of the industry and hear what’s happening at plants. It is always eye-opening and reinvigorating to learn about the latest technologies and market dynamics that are reshaping the ethanol industry. It helps me to represent the industry more effectively when Congress returns and reminds me of the privilege it is to work for America’s ethanol producers.

This year brought me to Galva, Iowa, where I was able to bear witness to the continued evolution of the ethanol industry. Quad County Corn Processors broke ground on it's cellulosic ethanol bolt-on facility, where it will process cellulosic corn fiber into high octane ethanol. Quad County’s Adding Cellulosic Ethanol (ACE) project will add 2 million gallons of cellulosic capacity to its existing 35 million gallon plant, while also increasing ethanol yield, expanding oil extraction and creating a more protein-enriched animal feed. For those who have questioned whether cellulosic ethanol would ever be commercialized, Quad County’s ACE project provides the answer. Cellulosic ethanol is here today!

I visited Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Ill., as the plant celebrated five years of operation. It was a powerful reminder of the value-added benefits of ethanol production. Over its five years, Patriot has produced more than $1 billion dollars of ethanol, sold 1.5 billion tons of high-protein distillers grains, employed 60 workers and provided a profit for more than 200 investors. Patriot showcased its many vendors and business partners at the event, companies that expand Patriot’s economic footprint with employees and profits of their own. During the two-day celebration, a local gas station was offering E85 for just $1.85 per gallon. Indeed, this summer has seen a dramatic increase in E85 sales as the value proposition for marketers and consumers alike became overwhelming.

When time allows, I always enjoy a quick stop at the Farm Progress Show, and I was there this year to see the remarkable new technology that will enable America’s farmers to extend their reign as the most productive and efficient in the world. Consider that during last year’s record drought—the worst in more than 50 years—America’s farmers still produced the eighth largest corn crop in history. That’s a testament to the power of technology. As I walked the grounds of the Farm Progress Show this summer, I was struck by how much of the technology on display was more accessible to farmers today, at least in part because of ethanol and the economic revival the renewable fuel standard has brought to rural America. And because farmers are investing in those technologies, there will be more corn available for all users in the future, meeting the needs of feed, fiber and fuel here and abroad. Indeed, there was a clear response to the food vs. fuel alarmists in virtually every tent at this year’s Farm Progress Show, if only critics would be open to seeing it. 

Driving around the country this summer, I saw the makings of another record crop. I also saw countless reasons for Congress to affirm the efficacy of the RFS and leave that important program in place. From Pacific Ethanol in Stockton, Calif., where my girls experienced their first ethanol plant tour, to Philadelphia, Pa., where I learned about all of the groundbreaking research being done on renewable energy by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the energy, economic, environmental benefits of ethanol and the RFS abound. If only Congress could see what I see.


Author: Bob Dinneen
President and CEO,
Renewable Fuels Association