Patriot Renewable Fuels based in Annawan, Illinois came online on August 31, 2008, during the first financial crisis of the industry and the beginning of the financial crisis in America. But this didn’t keep the biorefinery from success, and later this month the plant is celebrating its fifth anniversary. I spoke to Gene Griffith today to get a retrospective on the landscape of the ethanol industry then and now.
Back in 2002 when plans were underway for the ethanol plant, Griffith said they were looking for new markets for corn as well as a way to boost economic development in the local community. He also said during this time, there was a lot of attention on the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Griffith notes that at this time all the news around ethanol was positive. He said since the time they started thinking about the plant to now, the ethanol industry has grown tremendously – over seven times – an almost unheard of growth. And in that time, said Griffith, ethanol went from 1-2 percent of total fuel to about 10 percent of total fuel use in the U.S. and this has changed the dynamics of the motor fuel industry.
“And Big Oil looks at this growth and says our market is declining anyway because the vehicles are getting better gas economy,” continued Griffith causing the amount of gas use to decline. This coupled with the increase of ethanol use to E15 for approved vehicles, the ethanol industry can continue to grow. But until then, Griffith says its putting pressure on his plant as well as the industry.
The plant is buying 40 million bushels of corn per year and over five years has purchased 200 million bushels. Griffith says when they ran the numbers that equated to $1.1 billion dollars spent on the purchase of corn from local growers during the past five years. He also noted that the rural economy has been benefited. The 60 jobs they provide has paid over $18 million in salary and benefits during the past five years.
On the ethanol production side, they have produced 550 million gallons of ethanol and that came to $1.2 billion in ethanol sales. “I really think our board is proud of the fact that we could go from a grassroots like this to that kind of production,” said Griffith.
He believes his plant has great news to share not only with his local community but with communities around the world, and urges other ethanol plants and those in the industry to publicly share their stories.
To learn more, listen to my interview with Gene Griffith here: Patriot Renewable Fuels: A 5 Year Retrospective
Patriot Renewable Fuels will be hosting an open house and celebration on Thursday, August 22 and Friday, August 23, 2013 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm CST. Click here for more information.