As the keynote speaker at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit today, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper shared four ethanol predictions for the new decade and recapped the successes and tribulations of 2019.
“What made 2019 such an especially frustrating year is that our policy and regulatory wins were often overshadowed by new obstacles and unexpected setbacks,” Cooper said. “At every turn, it seemed our hard-fought victories were eclipsed by new impediments and a general sense of malaise and cynicism in the marketplace.”
Cooper cited many policy successes for the industry, from approval of year-round E15 and a presidential visit to an Iowa ethanol plant to EPA finally including measures to reallocate RFS blending volumes lost to small refinery exemptions. Despite these victories, he said, the “promise of new demand evaporated when trade wars crimped export opportunities and EPA doled out dozens of secret refinery waivers.”
Cooper also offered four predictions for the new decade. First and foremost was that the battle over the Renewable Fuel Standard will not only continue but intensify. “We know refiners are already working to recast the post-2022 RFS into something that limits the use of ethanol and other biofuels and fails to drive further growth,” he said. “We can’t let that happen. That’s why we are redoubling our efforts to ensure the RFS remains intact as the transformative and growth-oriented program Congress intended it to be in 2023 and well beyond.”
Going into 2020 and beyond, Cooper also predicted that low carbon fuel standards will spread; that with thawing trade wars, U.S. ethanol exports will resume vigorous growth; and that—at some point in this decade—E15 will become the standard gasoline blend in the United States.
Regarding the last of these, Cooper reminded his audience of the history of E10. “Twenty-five years after its commercial introduction, E10 still only accounted for about 20 percent of total US gasoline sales,” he said. “But in just seven years—between 2003 and 2010—E10 saw hockey-stick growth and went from about 20 percent of the market to almost 100 percent of the market.”
Closing his speech with a note of optimism, Cooper ended with a fifth prediction that flows from these prior ones: “Ethanol’s best and brightest days are ahead of us!”
Organized by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit is taking place this year in Altoona, Iowa. Click here for more information.