Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper addressed attendees of the 25th annual National Ethanol Conference in Houston today, painting a clear picture of the hardships faced in 2019 and making the case for an optimistic industry outlook for 2020 in his annual State of the Industry remarks.
“2019 marked just the third time in the last three decades where output fell from the preceding year,” Cooper said. “Previous decreases in annual output—in 1996 and 2012—were both tied to historic droughts, short crops, and record high corn prices. The drop in ethanol output this time was caused by a disaster of an entirely different sort: policy uncertainty, bureaucratic meddling, and aggravating marketplace barriers.”
In the face of demand-destroying regulatory barriers and political uncertainty, Cooper highlighted how the ethanol industry continued to serve as a vital source of good-paying jobs and economic activity in hard-hit rural communities in 2019, citing key statistics from RFA’s annual study on the economic contributions of the ethanol industry. Released on Monday, the study measures the industry’s sizable economic footprint. Key figures show that in 2019 alone, the U.S. ethanol industry:
- Produced 15.8 billion gallons of high-octane, clean-burning renewable fuel;
- Supported nearly 69,000 jobs directly, and another 280,000 indirect or induced jobs across the economy;
- Contributed $43 billion to the U.S. GDP, raised household incomes by more than $23 billion, and generated $8 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues.
Cooper also touted the removal of regulatory barriers that had banned the sale of E15 during summer months and the marketplace’s enthusiastic response as a win attributable to the industry’s tenacity and ability to “focus forward.” He went on to point out that 2020 is already off to a good start with US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruling in favor of RFA in a decision that could ensure the EPA is finally held accountable for their abusive practices in issuing small refinery waivers.
Meanwhile, RFA’s vision for the industry over the next decade is even brighter– especially given the increased focus on lowering carbon emissions from the transportation sector.
With state and federal action on carbon reduction looming large in the new decade, Cooper pointed to renewable fuels as a policy solution for lawmakers. Advocating for low-carbon fuel standards that establish a minimum octane level for fuels and requiring that octane boost comes from sources that reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to a hydrocarbon baseline are two solutions that will offer an even more robust market for the industry moving forward.
Cooper concluded his remarks offering what he believes are the keys to ethanol’s future: “Clean Octane. Carbon Reduction. Consumer Choice.”