FTC: US ethanol industry remains unconcentrated

By Erin Voegele | December 01, 2021

The Federal Trade Commission on Dec. 1 released its annual report on ethanol market concentration. As in previous reports, the agency determined that “the low level of concentration and large number of market participants in the U.S. ethanol production industry continue to suggest that the exercise of market power to set prices, or coordinate on price or output levels, is unlikely on a nationwide basis.”

According to the FTC, domestic ethanol production capacity remained almost unchanged in the past year, while actual production decreased since last year’s report. Production capacity, including capacity under construction, was at 17.8 billion gallons per year. Actual production from July 2020 through June 2021 was at 14.5 billion gallons, down slightly from the 14.6 billion gallons reported for the previous 12-month period.

Ethanol exports were also down. The U.S. exported approximately 1.27 billion gallons of ethanol from July 2020 through June 2021, the third consecutive annual decline following five years of increased ethanol exports.

The FTC said more than 100 firms produced ethanol in 2021. The largest ethanol producer’s share of domestic capacity is approximately 17 percent, up from 12 percent last year. The average estimated margin from the beginning of 2021 through mid-October was 25 cents per gallon, higher than the 12 cent per gallon margin estimated for the same period of 2020.

Analysis performed by the FTC concluded that the ethanol industry remains unconcentrated. “Furthermore, the possibility of entry and the availability of ethanol imports provide additional constraints on the exercise of market power by current industry participants,” the agency said in its report. “The low level of concentration and large number of market participants in the U.S. ethanol production industry continue to suggest that the exercise of market power to set prices, or coordination on price and output levels, is unlikely.”

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the FTC website