A year of success, despite overwhelming opposition

The ethanol industry will rise above challenges in 2016 while also taking every opportunity to grow, innovate and become more efficient, writes Tom Buis. This column appears in the January issue of EPM.
By Tom Buis | December 23, 2015

I hope you all had a wonderful and relaxing holiday season with friends and family. As we move into 2016, it is important to look back on last year and take stock of all the accomplishments our industry made in helping bring clean, homegrown American fuel to consumers.

Reflecting on 2015, I can say with confidence that it was a good year and our industry moved forward, despite overwhelming opposition from special interest groups determined to undermine the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and American-grown biofuels at all costs.

Despite overwhelming pressure on Congress from Big Oil and their coalition of special interests, we did not see any legislative changes to the RFS. While many members of Congress attempted to move legislation that would undermine or outright repeal the RFS, none of these efforts were successful. And this success is because of you, the grassroots activists who took action, called your representatives and senators, telling them that a vote against biofuels was a vote against your job, your community and against American innovation. Indeed, we were quite successful in 2015 in derailing any legislative attempts to diminish our industry.

At our Executive Leadership conference last year, we said that 2015 would be “the year of E15,” and we saw tremendous progress through different programs like Prime the Pump and the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership with the USDA. 

Through Prime the Pump, we established several retail partnerships with leading retailers, including: MAPCO, Cenex, Minnoco, Kum & Go, Protec, Murphy USA and Sheetz.

Furthermore, the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership, a federal grant program coupled with matching funds from public and private partners will result in approximately 5,000 new flex pumps installed over the next year or so to offer consumers E15 and higher blends.

Just eight months ago, the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership was an idea on a piece of paper. Currently, we are seeing firsthand the implementation of this program in 21 states to increase market access for cleaner, homegrown, renewable fuels. The speed with which this program has been implemented clearly demonstrates that USDA and its state and private sector partners can indeed make good things happen. It also proves the demand is there is for higher blends. If consumers did not want higher blends, and if retailers did not see a demand for them, this program would fail, but that is not the case, it has been tremendously successful, with the best yet to come this year.

2016 is a new year, filled with new opportunities. As world leaders return from the Climate Conference in Paris, many have outlined the importance of low-carbon fuels with reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a vital tool to mitigate climate change. They have made clear that biofuels are part of the solution and these ongoing efforts create a wonderful opportunity to increase our foreign market exports to help provide countries across the globe with GHG reducing biofuels, like ethanol.

Furthermore, gasoline consumption is on the rise, allowing for more biofuels to be blended into the marketplace, providing additional opportunities to expand. Foreign sales of ethanol and DDGS are a another bright spot for the industry. 2014 was a record year for DDGS exports and the nearly 835 million gallons of ethanol exports represented the second-highest level of ethanol overseas sales volumes recorded. Although price levels for both commodities are down from 2014 levels, looking at data through September, the 2015 volume level of ethanol trade is up 7 percent compared to last year, and DDGS exports are up 450,000 metric tons, a 5 percent increase compared to 2014.

This is a year full not only of challenges, but also opportunities. I am confident that together we will rise above any challenges. We will also take every opportunity to grow, innovate, and become more efficient. We will continue to provide the cleanest-burning motor fuel to consumers here in the United States and abroad, giving them a better product at a lower price.

Ethanol is better for our environment, our economy, our energy and national security. It is helping our nation take the necessary steps to end the reckless status quo of our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels.
Author: Tom Buis
Co-chairman, Growth Energy