If Past is Prologue

By Bob Dinneen | January 04, 2010
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"History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are." So says famed author of "1776" David McCullough. America's ethanol industry has just endured what may have been the most perilous year many in the industry can remember. No one is going to suggest that all the dangers have now passed.

It is at this precise time that it behooves us all to step back, take stock of the remarkable achievements we have made as an industry, and gain a greater appreciation of the strong foundation we have built that will ensure this industry's long term viability and success.

Since 2000, American ethanol has grown from a mere 1.6 billion gallons of ethanol production a year to a capacity to produce nearly 12 billion gallons this year. The industry has migrated beyond the Corn Belt, and today the majority of states are home to at least one ethanol production facility.

Equally as impressive has been the development of ethanol-blending infrastructure and the greater availability of ethanol all across the country. Eight out of every 10 gallons of gasoline sold in the U.S. now contain at least 5.6 percent ethanol. More than 2,300 gas stations today offer a blend higher than E10 and a growing number are installing blender pumps featuring E20, E30 and E85.

Perhaps in no other arena has the industry been more successful than in securing strong and consistent public policies that have led to unprecedented growth of the renewable fuels industry. In the past 10 years, industry members have worked tirelessly with policymakers and legislators at all levels of government to secure a strong future for ethanol. The industry has worked to modify gasoline regulations that have led to increased ethanol blending. We have successfully defended the necessity of the tax incentive for ethanol blenders to expand the marketplace. The list goes on and on.

But in the past five years, the unparalleled commitment of those in the industry who believe that a rising tide lifts all boats have achieved what few other industries dare to dream. We have opened up lines of communication with our petroleum industry customers who once sought only to stand in our way. We have unashamedly defended the industry against unfair criticism and unfounded attacks. And we twice helped pass historic legislation that demands a growing market for renewable fuels in place of traditional, unsustainable fossil fuels.

All of these achievements, challenges and obstacles have led to one defining moment in time. Today, we sit upon unparalleled opportunities and technological breakthroughs that stand ripened after three decades of hard work.

Margaret Fairless Barber once wrote, "To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward." So be proud. Enjoy your accomplishments. And prepare to return our focus to that next horizon.