ORLANDO – Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Geoff Cooper told nearly 1,000 National Ethanol Conference attendees today that while the U.S. ethanol industry had a “tough year” in 2018, it “continued to deliver huge wins for consumers,” including lower gas prices, cleaner air, a more secure energy supply, and increased job creation. As part of his State of the Ethanol Industry report, Cooper also outlined RFA’s plans driving future growth and creating new market opportunities for American-made ethanol.
The U.S. ethanol industry produced a record 16.1 billion gallons of high-octane, clean-burning renewable fuel in 2018, the sixth straight annual increase in production, Cooper noted. As a result, the ethanol industry continued to play a vital role in the U.S. economy, supporting more than 71,000 direct jobs and nearly 295,000 indirect and induced jobs across all the sectors of the economy.
“One of the greatest successes for our industry in 2018 was growth in the export market,” Cooper said, pointing out that one out of every 10 gallons of ethanol produced in the United States was exported last year. “This accomplishment is even more impressive when you consider that U.S. ethanol faced punitive trade barriers in several key markets.”
However, the ethanol industry experienced “demand destruction” in 2018 as the result of former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s egregious abuse of small refinery exemptions, which excused 48 refiners from their blending obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
“While we were focused on fighting efforts by Texas Senator Ted Cruz and others to cap RIN prices, allow exported renewable fuels to count toward the RFS, water down the RFS with RIN multipliers, and any number of other really bad ideas, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was busy cutting the legs out from underneath our industry,” Cooper said. “The RFS is all about moving the renewable fuels industry forward and growing the market. Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened in 2018. We didn’t take this lying down, however, and RFA and its partners continue to fight the small refiner exemptions in court, demanding that the lost volumes be reallocated.”
Cooper underscored that RFA and the industry will be prepared to quickly respond to important developments expected in the near term, including proposed EPA rulemakings for year-round E15 and the RFS “reset” and efforts to re-open the Chinese export market.“When EPA finally puts out its proposed rule to allow year-round sales of E15, we’ll be ready,” he said.
“RFA will throw everything we’ve got into ensuring a defensible rule is finalized as quickly as possible, expanding the domestic ethanol market, enabling competition, and eliminating—once and for all—a needless bureaucratic barrier that offers no economic or environmental benefit whatsoever.
“When EPA releases its proposal to reset the 2020 through 2022 RFS volumes, we’ll be primed to make the case that the reset should be used to increase the required volumes of all renewable fuels over current levels. The reset rule presents a perfect opportunity for the Agency to restore the conventional renewable volumes that were inappropriately erased.”
And on the current trade impasse with China, Cooper said, “We’ll keep the heat on the Administration to resolve lingering trade disputes, and when China finally reopens its doors to U.S. ethanol imports, we’ll be prepared to deliver.”
Looking at the long term, Cooper outlined that the RFA’s vision for the future includes not only strengthening the RFS, but also pursuing a high-octane fuel standard. “The RFS and a high-octane, low carbon fuel program are not mutually exclusive,” he said. “Rather, they can work in concert, not in conflict, to assure air quality improvements, carbon emissions reduction, and consumer savings for decades to come.”
For a copy of Cooper’s remarks as prepared for delivery, click here.