Top Ethanol Stories of 2008

Cindy Zimmerman

Here is the Domestic Fuel list of the Top Ten ethanol stories of 2008.

Top Ten1. RFS Passes Test – The ethanol industry won a major victory August when the EPA denied a request for a partial waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) as the nation’s producers surpassed the nine billion gallon goal for 2008 to produce over 10 billion this year according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

2. Food Versus Fuel Fight – Feathers and fur flew for the better part of the year as food makers fought to blame ethanol producers for the rising cost of groceries. The agriculture industry divided against itself with meat animal producers crying fowl over high feed prices as the Grocery Manufacturers waged a high-priced PR campaign specifically designed to change public opinion about ethanol.

3. Ups and Downs – It was the best of years and it was the worst of years when it came to prices. Gas, corn and ethanol prices shot up like a rocket for half the year and spent the second half falling like a rock. Meanwhile, food prices have yet to come back down and food companies are just about the only ones reporting profits this year.

4. Election Connection – Ethanol became an issue on the campaign trail in the contest between McCain and Obama. While Senator McCain raised major concerns among agriculture and ethanol producers with his comments about ending subsidies, the president-elect was unwavering in his support for the fuel and the farmers of his home state of Illinois.

5. VeraSun Sets as POET Reigns – VeraSun was shining brightly in 2008, reporting a 500 percent revenue increase over 2007 in August. But the company burned out like a shooting star, filing bankruptcy less than two months later. Meanwhile, POET became the undisputed king of the ethanol empire, opening five new facilities this year to make a total of 26 plants with a combined capacity of 1.54 billion gallons a year.

6. Next Generation Exploration – Cellulosic ethanol fueled cars in the 2008 American LeMans Series and while dozens of researchers claimed to have found the “key” to making the next generation of ethanol commercially viable the pudding has yet to be proven and the pressure is on to produce enough to meet the RFS for cellulosic in 2010.

7. Feedstock Frenzy – As criticism of corn ethanol grew in 2008, so did the search for new feedstocks. Alternatives in the hopper include wood chips, switchgrass, miscanthus, “sugar corn,” corn stover, orange peels and municipal waste.

8. E85 Pumps Up – It seemed like new E-85 pumps were opening up every day around the country in 2008. The number of stations offering E-85 is now almost 1900 – an increase of more than 40 percent over 2007. Only six states currently are without any E-85 pumps with Minnesota way out front at 354.

9. Blending In – Blender pumps started sprouting up in several states in 2008. The pumps give flexible fuel vehicle owners the choice of filling up with E20, E30, E40 or E85. States leading the blender pump charge this year were Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota.

10. EPIC Saga Ends – The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) will no longer exist after the end of 2008. EPIC’s most notable accomplishments in less than four years include standardizing a recognizable brand for ethanol in the “e” logo and getting the Indy Racing League to use 100 percent ethanol. The organization is now becoming part of the newly-formed Growth Energy.

Ethanol, News