The Ethanol Decade Redux

By Bob Dinneen | February 09, 2010
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This moment in time is unlike any in our industry's history. After a decade that saw unprecedented growth and expansion of America's ethanol industry, we are just now beginning to scratch the surface of our potential.

Right now, ethanol is approaching 10 percent of the nation's gasoline supply. In the years to come, ethanol will comprise 15, 20, and even 25 percent of the fuel America requires. Most excitingly, the tens of billions of gallons of ethanol that will be required will come from an increasingly diverse menu of feedstocks.

Existing ethanol biorefineries are already developing and adopting new technologies that are increasing ethanol yields, improving the quality of livestock feed produced, and creating new bio-based coproducts that increase profits and decrease the need for other fossil fuel-based products.

Likewise, entrepreneurs and visionaries are fine-tuning the next generation of ethanol production processes that will utilize agricultural residues, wood wastes, grasses and even garbage to dramatically increase ethanol production and replace petroleum-based fuels.

At the same time, the industry is actively expanding infrastructure to provide Americans with more choice at the fuel pump. Campaigns such as the Renewable Fuel Association's and American Coalition for Ethanol's Blend Your Own Ethanol are working with brave, forward-looking gasoline retailers to install blender pumps and other infrastructure to offer drivers of ethanol blends, depending upon their preference and the price.

The progress that will come to define this new decade is not limited to the marketplace. On Capitol Hill and in state assemblies around the country, sound public policies are being discussed and advanced that, if done correctly, will ensure America finally moves away from the oil status quo.

Extending the tax incentives for ethanol blending, increasing the blend wall, implementing and defending the renewable fuels standard, and formulating a fair national low carbon fuels policy are all necessary for the industry to succeed. With your help, the RFA will lead the industry in these battles and help expand upon the strong public policy underpinnings we have all fought hard to achieve.

Without a doubt, challenges will be made as to the necessity of ethanol, its true environmental benefits, its impact on the economy, and its role in the nation's energy future. Armed with the facts, these challenges will be met head on and turned into opportunities to expand awareness and knowledge about America's leading biofuel. As more people realize that futuristic fuels such as hydrogen are a distant dream, ethanol's importance to the nation's fuel supply will continue to grow.

I have said before that the Aughts, Naughts, or whatever you call them, were the Ethanol Decade. But there is no reason that the new decade can't be ethanol's as well. Or this century, for that matter.
We stand at the precipice of opportunity that many industries dream of, but few ever reach. This year, this decade, and this opportunity will be what we make of it.