Ethanol Trade & Exports

Leading the World in Ethanol Supply and Demand

The United States is the world leader in the production, consumption, and export of ethanol. The nearly 14 billion gallons of ethanol produced here in 2020 represents 53 percent of global output. In comparison, Brazil’s share of total world production rose slightly to 31 percent.


U.S. ethanol exports in 2020 were an estimated 1.33 billion gallons, representing approximately 10 percent of the ethanol produced in the United States.


In 2020, Canada regained its position as the top destination for U.S. ethanol, taking one-quarter of U.S. exports.  Exports to Brazil plunged more than 40 percent, as a result of the pandemic’s impact on fuel consumption and turmoil surrounding the country’s tariff-rate quota.  In December 2020, Brazil let the tariff-free quota expire for good, resulting in a 20 percent tariff being assessed on all U.S. ethanol imports.


Shipments to India increased approximately 15 percent, putting it roughly on par with Brazil as the second-largest destination for U.S. ethanol. Exports to Mexico doubled.  The increased global demand for industrial alcohol also helped buoy overall U.S. exports, as manufacturing of sanitizers and disinfectants increased.


U.S. ethanol imports in 2020 were on par with 2019 levels, despite the cutback in U.S. fuel consumption. Virtually all fuel ethanol imports entered the country in California, where Brazilian sugarcane-based ethanol has benefitted from both the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and from premium values for “advanced biofuel” RFS credits, or RINs.


U.S. Producers Feed the World

U.S. biorefineries satisfied growing domestic animal food needs while also exporting about a third of distillers grains produced. In 2020, more than 50 countries purchased a cumulative 11 mmt of U.S. distillers grains. Half of these exports landed in Southeast and East Asia.  Meanwhile nearly 20 percent of total exports were shipped to Mexico, as the country extended its position as our top distillers grains customer for a fourth consecutive year.


The Renewable Fuels Association anticipates that mounting demand and geographic diversity lie ahead as countries around the globe embrace the use of these safe and economical ethanol bio-products.