In his annual State of the Industry Address, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said that, while the U.S. ethanol industry has a long history of capitalizing on unique opportunities, the global quest to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 “may very well be the greatest opportunity for growth and value creation in the industry’s history.”
Cooper’s address served as the keynote during today’s 27th National Ethanol Conference, which began yesterday and concludes tomorrow in New Orleans.
“Just as the ethanol industry seized on opportunities to stimulate the rural economy, reduce smog-forming air pollution, and bolster energy security, we now have—right in front of us—another great opportunity to provide a solution to one of the world’s most daunting challenges: reducing carbon emissions and combatting climate change,” Cooper said. “And we cannot afford to miss this opportunity—not just because it will help our industry grow and thrive, but because the very health of the planet is at stake.”
The ethanol industry has already made great progress toward decarbonization, Cooper said, as today’s corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 50% percent compared to gasoline. And, as highlighted in a new study released at the conference, ethanol is on a trajectory to achieve net-zero carbon emissions well before 2050. But ethanol’s ability to contribute to decarbonization goals goes far beyond the light-duty vehicle fleet, Cooper said.
“With the right chemistry and technology, ethanol can serve not only as a future low-carbon fuel for jets, ocean liners, trucks, and farm equipment, but also as the fundamental building block for sustainable chemicals and plastics,” Cooper said. “In reality, anything you can do with a barrel of crude oil, we can do with a barrel of renewable ethanol.”
Cooper also highlighted a big opportunity for ethanol to help address another vexing problem: high gas prices. Oil prices topped $95 per barrel last week and average retail gas prices hit $3.50 a gallon, which Cooper said “reminds us of an inconvenient reality: We cannot frack our way to low gas prices and energy security. Whether we like it or not, pump prices here in America continue to be shaped by the whims of OPEC and geopolitical events—like the current situation in Ukraine.”
Rather than calling on OPEC to increase production, releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or suspending the federal gasoline tax, Cooper encouraged the Biden Administration to move quickly to facilitate the sale of higher ethanol blends like E15.
“Today, fuel blenders can buy a gallon of ethanol for about 50 cents less than a gallon gasoline,” he said, noting that E15 is selling for 20 to 25 cents less than E10 in some places in recent weeks. “Make no mistake, the quickest way to lower gas prices would be to restore the ability of retailers to sell E15 year-round and allow them to do it through existing equipment. The Biden Administration could make that happen with little more than the stroke of a pen, and we will continue to encourage them to pursue this commonsense strategy for reducing consumer fuel prices in the near term.”