A Hand Full of Aces

By Mike Bryan | March 05, 2012

The underlying story of ethanol is not its environmental benefits; the real story is the impact ethanol has on the economy. We have competed with petroleum for years based on the fact that ethanol is cleaner, more environmentally friendly. While true, it has forced the industry to spend millions of dollars proving something that most people would have automatically assumed to be the case anyway. Of course ethanol is cleaner, almost anything you could stuff in your fuel tank, other than perhaps coal, would be cleaner than oil.

In retrospect, the environmental war we have waged against petroleum, is perhaps a war that we should have avoided and instead focused on the real story of ethanol…its economic impact. Arguably, the reason ethanol has gained wide Congressional support over the years and broad public acceptance has little to do with its environmental impact, but in large measure its economic impact. Oil did not win its place in the world based on its environmental contributions.

The Obama administration is pushing for a revitalization of American manufacturing. The Republicans are advocates of an industrial revolution, opening up more opportunities for the “Job Creators.” Well folks, ethanol producers are job creators and have proven to be a modern economic powerhouse. Governments around the world are frantically trying to improve their industrial infrastructure. You can’t improve your economic infrastructure with oil. While still a vital part of the world’s economy, oil is entering its sunset years. I have said many times, “When the oil wells of today are nothing more than rusted relics of the past, the fields of modern agriculture will still be pumping domestically produced ethanol and hundreds of billions of dollars into the world’s economy.”

According to Renewable Fuels Association statistics, in 2010 the U.S. ethanol industry directly employed more than 70,000 people with indirect employment close to 400,000. Ethanol Producer Magazine, in an industry survey, showed an average annual wage of over $40,000 plus benefits. In addition, the ethanol industry added more than $53 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product. Food vs. fuel, land use and higher food prices are simply diversionary tactics designed to keep the industry on its heels. The issue of using corn vs. cellulose is, and frankly always has been, a moot point. The important point is that agriculture has, and always will step up to meet the demands of the market, whether it’s grain or cellulose.

In the industrial economic card game, the ethanol industry has a hand full of aces—no bluffing, no folding, it’s our game to win or lose. Several hundred thousand jobs and billions of dollars added to the economy each year and still growing, that’s the real story about ethanol. Oh yeah, and we also have a positive impact the environment.

That’s the way I see it.

Author: Mike Bryan
Chairman, BBI International
mbryan@bbiinternational.com