Industry poised to be part of climate change solution

The important, ambitious goals contained in the agreement reached at the climate change conference can be met with the help of biofuels, writes Tom Buis. This column appears in the February issue of EPM.
By Tom Buis | January 19, 2016

At the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, 195 countries reached a historic agreement that will, for the first time, enable us to improve air quality and boost the transition toward resilient, low-carbon societies and economies. The important, ambitious goals contained in the agreement can be met with the help of biofuels. Cleaner-burning, higher-performing fuels have the potential to resolve many of the pressing environmental and public health issues faced by our friends across the globe, and we are ready to be part of the solution. 

The landmark agreement commits nearly every country to lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to Argonne National Laboratory, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 34 percent compared to gasoline. Ethanol producers are also developing new and innovative ways to produce sustainable biofuels from farm waste and woody biomass, ushering in the next generation of renewable fuels that promise even greater reductions in GHG emissions. Argonne National Laboratory estimates that cellulosic and other advanced biofuels can reduce GHG emissions by 100 percent or more compared to gasoline.

In addition to helping the world take on the challenge of climate change, ethanol and distillers grains exports also represent about 10 percent of the industry’s sales. In order to actively explore additional market opportunities and pursue solutions to trade barriers, Growth Energy has partnered with the U.S. Grains Council and the Renewable Fuels Association to create an Ethanol Export Steering Committee consisting of members of each organization and senior USDA Foreign Agricultural Service officials.

The steering committee focuses on providing educational information related to ethanol to our overseas representatives and customers, including USGC and FAS staff, initiating market assessment missions and engaging with current customers to expand foreign demand through a combination of overseas trade activities and bringing foreign ethanol industry teams to the U.S. Teams from the three organizations have participated in exploratory market development missions to China, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Panama, the Philippines, Singapore and India to ascertain the potential to expand the export market for U.S. ethanol. Additional missions are in the planning stage for 2016.

These efforts have been a resounding success. In 2014, the industry had a record volume of distillers grains sales overseas and the second-highest amount of ethanol exports in history. Through October 2015, U.S. exports of ethanol totaled 695 million gallons, up about 4 percent compared to the same period in 2014, with a value of $1.5 billion. U.S. distillers grains exports totaled 10.6 million metric tons for the first 10 months of the year with an export value of $2.5 billion. We are working hard to ensure that these numbers continue to grow by expanding the market development efforts launched in 2015 through additional market analysis and development missions.

With rapidly growing energy demands and a new climate agreement, our nation and others should invest in biofuels that are cleaner, cheaper and offer a more reliable supply than fossil fuels. Imagine all of the good we can do for the environment and for our future by increasing the blend of ethanol in our fuel supply.
Author: Tom Buis
Co-chairman, Growth Energy