The world’s largest ethanol producer opened a third plant in Ohio on Friday. POET Biorefining – Marion is POET’s 26th ethanol plant, bringing the company’s total annual capacity to 1.54 billion gallons.
Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) joined company representatives and local dignitaries for the opening ceremony.
“I could not be more proud of POET’s commitment to Ohio agriculture and Ohio jobs, and our nation’s national security,” Sen. Voinovich said. “This facility, along with the plants opened in Leipsic and Fostoria, represent a critical part of Ohio’s future economy and reaffirm Ohio’s role as one of the top agricultural states and as one of the leading innovators and developers of alternative energies in the nation. POET’s commitment could not come at a more needed time for our nation’s environmental, economic and national security needs.”
POET was recently listed by Forbes as one of “Eight Promising Alternative Energy Companies.” The company’s next major milestone will be the start of ethanol production before the end of the year at a pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol plant currently under construction in Scotland, S.D.
The South Dakota Corn Utilization Council is partnering with Northern State University to present the First Annual Ethanol Bowl next month.
The premiere event will feature the NSU Wolves facing Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference rivals the Augustana Vikings on November 8 at Clark Swisher Activities Complex in Aberdeen, S.D.
“Northern State looks forward to celebrating a growing industry in our region and enjoy some great NSIC football,” said Bob Olson, NSU Athletic Director.
A Reuters report from the UK today quotes an economic expert as saying higher food prices this year were driven by speculators, not ethanol.
Heavy demand for corn from ethanol makers was seen as a key driver of corn futures to record highs in June, but since then the sharp decline of corn along with other commodities shows that belief was mistaken. Corn is down about 50 percent from its record high in June, even as the amount of the grain used to produce the renewable fuel in the United States remained the same.
The article quotes Stewart Ramsey, senior economist for Global Insight, a Philadelphia-based company that provides economic, financial, and political analysis and forecasting. “The record high prices were a speculative bubble,” Ramsey says in the article.
Analysts said soaring corn prices were a symptom of big shifts of investment money into corn and other commodities. As big money began shifting out of stocks a few years ago, commodity markets like corn futures began climbing. “There was a speculative bubble in the market and that’s one of the bigget things that came out of the market is just that equity markets weren’t good and for a while the money came into commodities,” Ramsay said.
Over the past two weeks, key energy advisors to the McCain and Obama presidential campaigns have shared their views on ethanol with Agritalk Radio host Mike Adams.
Heather Zichal, the policy director for energy, environment and agriculture for the Obama campaign spoke on behalf of Senator Obama, while Jim Moseley, former Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture and a member of the McCain-Palin farm and ranch team represented Senator McCain.
The appearances on the syndicated radio program which is heard on 70 stations nationwide were supported by the Renewable Fuels Association in an effort to draw attention to ethanol as an issue in the presidential campaign. RFA president Bob Dinneen said, “Heather and Jim clearly understand the issues and were outstanding representatives for their respective candidates. We thank them both for their participation.”
Full transcripts of each program are available as links below:
Heather Zichal for Senator Obama
Jim Moseley for Senator McCain
Comments made to the press last week by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer regarding the possibility of USDA loans to ethanol plants that have been hurt by commodity market speculation this year have caused quite a stir. USDA has been working to get the word out this week to clarify that this is not any kind of a “bail out” for ethanol plants, nor is it a new program that was created to help plants that made bad investments.
Schafer said the government could provide up to $25 million per company to refinance through a “guaranteed loan-type program for operating capital.” These types of loans are available through the Rural Development’s existing Business and Industry (B&I) Loan Guarantee Program. Under that program, the loan must be secured by a private lending agency – USDA does not make a direct loan.
Regardless, livestock industry groups are up in arms about the possibility of helping ethanol plants in trouble. Eight major livestock organization leaders wrote to the secretary this week protesting what they view as preferential treatment for the ethanol plants. “Many of our producer and processor members also took long positions on corn and soybeans and are paying above-market rates right now,” they wrote. “We in animal agriculture are particularly concerned that you would consider adding one more level of support for the corn-based ethanol industry.”
However, Secretary Schafer said this week that ethanol plants should be treated no differently than other agricultural companies that can take advantage of the existing loan guarantee program.
A new pilot plant that broke ground in Tennessee last week will be testing the use of switchgrass as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol.
Genera Energy is a partnership between the University of Tennessee and DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC, a joint venture formed this year by DuPont and Genencor to commercialize cellulosic ethanol. On hand to celebrate the groundbreaking October 14 with company representatives were Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and numerous other state and local officials, as well as local area farmers who will be growing the switchgrass to feed the plant. A John Deere tractor was used for the ceremonial groundbreaking.
Earlier in the day, Governor Bredesen participated in the state’s first-ever Summit on Clean Energy Technology in Knoxville. “When it comes to facing the challenges of the future, Tennessee isn’t just talking the talk about clean energy technology, we’re walking the walk, rolling up our sleeves and getting to work,” said Bredesen. “The bottom line is that this plant and this partnership are going to do a lot of good for Tennessee’s future.”
Besides switchgrass, the pilot plant is also designed to convert corn stover from western Tennessee into ethanol. The biorefinery’s construction and switchgrass production are the first major components of the UT Biofuels Initiative, a farm-to-fuel business plan developed by UT Institute of Agriculture researchers.
The stakeholders of the nation’s largest ethanol producer are asking the presidential candidates to support ethanol.
More than 1,700 POET employees and investors sent an open letter to Senators McCain and Obama urging them to invest in domestic sources of renewable fuels, like ethanol. In the letter, they emphasized the positive impact that ethanol has already made in creating jobs, reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, they noted that innovations like cellulosic ethanol are just around the corner, making ethanol even cleaner and greener.
“Based on the enormous response to this letter from POET employees and local farmers, it is clear that many Americans will be voting based on their economic and energy interests this year,” said Jeff Broin, CEO of POET. “Ethanol is America’s best renewable fuel, reliable and affordable now and we hope that the next president continues to invest in this homegrown and high-tech energy solution.”
POET has 25 ethanol production facilities in seven states, including several that are still considered “toss ups” in this presidential campaign or are hotly contested, such as Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Ohio.
The letter notes that the ethanol industry created more than 200,000 new jobs across the country, and in 2007, ethanol production contributed $47.6 billion to the nation’s GDP and generated $4.6 billion in federal tax revenues. Further, in 2007, the production and use of biofuels helped the U.S. avoid an estimated 13 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
A Southeast ethanol company has formally announced the locations for four plants to be built around the sunbelt.
East Coast Ethanol intends to construct plants in Northampton Co., NC; Chester Co., SC; Wayne Co., GA; and Jackson Co., FL.
With a nameplate production capacity of 440 million gallons of ethanol per year, the four plants in operation would make ECE will become the sixth largest ethanol producer in the nation and the leading producer of ethanol and its co-products on the East Coast. According to the latest figures released by the Energy Information Administration, the Southeast ethanol market demand is estimated at 2.1 billion gallons per year.
Biofuels in general and ethanol in particular were part of the discussion at the World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines this year. Despite the food versus fuel controversy that permeated the headlines for 2008, there seemed to be more acceptance of biofuels as being able to co-exist with food production and being part of the overall global agriculture picture.
This Ethanol Report podcast features some of the comments made at the World Food Prize events last week by UK Scientific Advisor Sir Gordon Conway, International Biofuels Commission co-chair Roberto Rodrigues, World Bank president Robert Zoellick, former senators George McGovern and Bob Dole – this year’s World Food Prize recipients, and Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer.
You can listen to “The Ethanol Report” on-line here:
Or you can subscribe to this podcast by following this link.
Global demand is growing for the ethanol by-product distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), which is used for livestock feed – and the US Grains Council is helping to move that product.
At the U.S. Grains Council’s International Distillers Grains Conference in Indianapolis earlier this week, attendees heard that Mexico currently holds the title as the number one purchaser of U.S. DDGS, importing 708,000 metric tons in the 2007 calendar year. Canada follows in second place importing 317,580 tons last year. But other countries hold promise for increased imports, including Thailand and Russia.
Grains Council president and CEO Ken Hobbie said at the conference, “DDGS and its value in all types of animal rations shows that US grain producers have the capacity and the capability to produce for both food and fuel.” Hobbie said that if the four million tons of DDGS exported from the US this year were divided equally between all the major livestock food sectors it would produce 331,000 metric tons of chicken, nearly five billion eggs, almost 86,000 metric tons of beef, 1.8 million metric tons of milk and 205,000 metric tons of pork.
Listen to Hobbie’s remarks here, provided to DomesticFuel by Hoosier Ag Today: