Just Getting Started

With numerous headwinds facing U.S. farmers and biofuel producers, the expansion of higher-level blends offers a ray of hope that promises to fuel growth for years to come. Skor says: 'Drive demand for ethanol and propel this industry forward.'
By Emily Skor | October 27, 2020

America’s ethanol producers have been firing on all cylinders in the run-up to the historic November election. In the span of just a few weeks, more than 150 producers and supporters from across the nation virtually gathered to advocate for biofuels in the nation’s capital at the annual Growth Energy Biofuels Summit. Meanwhile, industry stakeholders worldwide took advantage of networking opportunities at the 36th annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo. I was honored to deliver the keynote at FEW, the largest and longest-running ethanol conference in the world, where I discussed the path we’re following to move beyond the recovery and drive new growth in the months and years ahead.

As I told attendees, looking back on this past year, it’s impossible to overstate the ingenuity and resilience we’ve seen on display by America’s biofuels producers. We pivot, we remain agile, we seize those opportunities that emerge—planned or unplanned—but we also stay the course. And now, we’re approaching this decade with the same singular focus: Drive demand for ethanol and propel this industry forward.

Perhaps no development better showcases that grit and determination than the U.S. EPA’s long-overdue decision to reject a raft of petitions for retroactive refinery exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard—known as “gap year” petitions.

Over a three-year period, blending exemptions have destroyed more than 4 billion gallons of biofuel demand. As if that weren’t enough, refineries then began seeking retroactive exemptions to circumvent exemption requirements set forth by the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, which ruled against similar handouts.

But we pushed back hard and rallied opposition across the heartland. In fact, just days before President Donald Trump ordered EPA to reject this latest attack on biofuels, 93 farm organizations, biofuel stakeholders, and plant managers from across the country signed on to Growth Energy’s letter urging Trump to stand up against attacks on homegrown biofuels.

As a result of our united efforts, 54 pending exemption petitions were formally rejected, lifting a major cloud of uncertainty hanging over American farmers and biofuel producers. But the battle is far from over. All told, EPA must still reject at least 17 gap year petitions, along with 33 more covering 2019 and 2020, just to get us back to where we were earlier this spring. EPA is long overdue in applying the 10th Circuit’s ruling nationwide and putting an end to abuses of this program once and for all.

We also must ensure that EPA upholds a promise made by the president last October to streamline labeling and remove regulatory barriers to the sale of E15. These are vital steps toward realizing the opportunities created by last year’s win on year-round E15, and Growth Energy will continue working with EPA on clear guidance allowing retailers to offer E15 from existing fuel dispensing and storage equipment.

With so many headwinds facing U.S. farmers and biofuel producers, the continued expansion of higher biofuel blends offers a ray of hope that promises to drive rural growth for years to come.
Now more than ever, we need to send a signal to farm families that they can focus on rebuilding the agricultural supply chain.

That’s why opportunities like FEW and the Growth Energy Biofuels Summit are so important. They open a space to build new alliances, highlight industry priorities, and promote a future where policymakers embrace ethanol as a solution to climate change and where consumer confidence in ethanol exceeds all expectations.

With that in mind, I’d like to thank all the farmers, producers, suppliers, investors, advocates, and other leaders who stood at our side over the last year. It’s been tough, but we will never take our foot off the gas. Not only will we demand policymakers keep their promises, we will press ahead on every opportunity to advance our vision for exponential growth and increased demand that will carry us through global pandemics and beyond.

 

Author: Emily Skor
CEO, Growth Energy
202.545.4000
eskor@growthenergy.org