Dinneen Says Ethanol Industry 'Strong and Getting Stronger'

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

ORLANDO, Feb 23, 2012-Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen told a huge National Ethanol Conference crowd this morning that the ethanol industry is "strong and getting stronger."

In his "state of the industry" address before the general session of the conference underway in Orlando, Dinneen said the industry "is standing tall in some of the toughest times we have endured in our lifetime."

He said the industry's growth rate is among the nation's industrial leaders and is a "critically important contributor to the national economy." With a 2011 output of 13.9 billion gallons, the industry, Dinneen said, citing recent studies, has provided 90,000 direct high-paying jobs and 311,000 jobs in fields related to the industry, all while adding $43 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. He said that according to another study, the use of ethanol in the nation's fuel supply has kept gas prices down by an average of nearly 90 cents per gallon, saving the American family, on average, some $800 in fuel costs annually.

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Dinneen cited the role of the "ramped up" industry in helping reduce U.S. oil imports from hostile regimes, citing a 25-percent reduction in oil imports from Iran last year. He said overall, U.S. oil imports are down to their lowest levels since the early 1990s, a trend he attributed to the growth of the ethanol industry, not increased oil production as suggested by some national publications and oil industry representatives he dismissed as "petro-cheerleaders."

Dinneen said that since the implementation of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard six years ago, the mandate has resulted in 830 million barrels of new ethanol annually, versus just 197 million barrels of new oil production, each year. He said that since 2005, ethanol represents 25 percent of the increase in the supply of new domestically produced transportation fuel supply.

Dinneen asserted that ethanol is the only gasoline additive that is helping reduce global climate change, claiming the alternative fuel has helped reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 25.3 million tons annually, the equivalent of taking some 4 million autos off the road.

The RFA CEO said that with the emergence of the ethanol industry over the past decade, "farmers are getting honest prices for their labors," which is resulting in greater income that drives improved inputs, greater efficiency and advanced technologies. And the industry has helped the federal budget by reducing farm payments and giving lawmakers the leeway to do away with direct farm payments when they consider a new farm bill this year.

Addressing critics in the livestock industry, which Dinneen said is now experiencing increased profits, the RFA official cited the roll of dried distillers grains (DDGs) from the ethanol production process as an additive that allows cattle feeders to reduce their feed costs. He noted a recent study showing every ton of DDGs equals about 1.2 tons of conventional feed.

Dinneen also used the conference stage to renew the industry's call for an end to oil industry tax breaks, and cautioned against any over-reliance on natural gas, which is currently priced at relatively low levels. "We cannot 'frack' outselves into energy security in this country," he said, citing the term used for extracting natural gas from underground shale formations. "We can't allow an infatuation (with natural gas) undermine the advances we have made in diversifying our fuel supplies."

Citing what he said was the industry's decision not to fight the elimination of a blenders tax credit last year as a signal of the ethanol sector's strength, Dinneen said "government's role should be limited to encouraging new, sustainable energy sources," including advanced biofuels. He underscored the RFA's role in creating the Advanced Ethanol Council, a coalition of next-generation biofuel developers, when he dismissed critics of the advance biofuels industry who "mistake delays for failure." The industry is "making progress" and too much is at stake - including the nation's energy security - to stop federal support of new biofuel research and development, citing in particular the need to extend an advanced biofuels production tax credit.

Dinneen said the ethanol industry has been "a victim of our own success," setting itself up for attack by a "well-funded" coalition of "angry birds, mad cows and fracking fanatics" because ethanol producers are now taking a "bigger portion of the barrel of the U.S. fuel supply."

He urged industry members to counter the attacks by not only actively engaging national candidates on the issues important to the growth of the biofuel sector, but to be active at the state and local levels, as well.


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