July 10th is U.S. Energy Independence Day, a time to celebrate Earth-friendly American ethanol. Last year alone, the ethanol industry created and supported 340,000 jobs and contributed roughly $42 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – a number exceeding the total GDP of many countries. And, the production of more than 15 billion gallons of ethanol meant that the U.S. needed to import approximately 540 million fewer barrels of crude oil to meet the country’s demand for gasoline.1
One key to the future success of the U.S. ethanol industry, however, will be increased access to higher ethanol blends, such as E15. To date, American drivers have surpassed 1 billion miles on E15 and E15 is currently sold at more than 800 retail outlets across 29 states, with expansion expected to double.2 Greater access to E15 though, including during the high-volume, gasoline consumption summer months, is essential.
Looking ahead, retail partnerships will be key to continuing to expand the availability for higher ethanol blends. Earlier this year, Syngenta announced a $340,000 donation to the Prime the Pump Fund. Prime the Pump is helping high-volume, progressive-minded and industry-leading fuel retailers, who will demonstrate the performance, cost savings and profit opportunity of marketing higher ethanol blends, such as E15.
According to Growth Energy, the vehicles that E15 is approved for account for more than 87 percent of all those on the road today. And, nearly 20 million vehicles are approved for any blend of ethanol up to 85 percent ethanol. Clearly, we have the vehicles capable of using blends higher than E10, but consumers need greater access to stations capable of providing it. Efforts like Prime the Pump will help make that access a reality. The widespread availability of flex-fuel vehicles – as well as those eligible to use E15 – demonstrates that there is a market ready for a less expensive, higher octane, more environmentally friendly alternative fuel.
Consumers across the USA clearly benefit from the reduced cost of ethanol and lower emissions. However, rural America, specifically small towns and communities, benefit greatly as well. Syngenta’s Enogen® corn enzyme technology is one example of a technology advancement that allows ethanol plants to pay premiums to corn growers. These premiums are substantial with likely payouts of $34 million from ethanol plants to corn growers in rural communities this year alone. These dollars are then circulated in these communities, helping to generate tax dollars for schools and roads and keeping rural America vitalized.
New technologies are also helping to make ethanol even more sustainable. For example, approximately 10 percent of the corn kernel dry weight is fiber, and converting corn kernel fiber feedstock to cellulosic ethanol has been possible for some time. However, recent advances in technologies can enable commercial deployment today. In fact, the approximately 12 million tons of corn kernel fiber feedstock already available at U.S. dry grind ethanol plants each year could produce a potential 1.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol – with no additional corn.3
In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added corn kernel fiber to the list of qualifying cellulosic biofuel feedstocks as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). That same year, using Cellerate™ process technology, Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) was the first commercial cellulosic facility – using corn kernel fiber as feedstock – and achieved EPA certification to generate D3 RINs. Through November 2016, QCCP’s output represented approximately 85 percent of D3 RIN ethanol produced.4 To date, QCCP has produced more than 6 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol.
Since the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, ethanol has become an important success story. Ethanol is helping America reduce its dependence on foreign oil, lowering prices at the pump, improving the environment with lower emissions, and growing the economy with jobs that can’t be outsourced. Syngenta is proud to partner with corn growers and the ethanol industry to help provide consumers with the choice to purchase a superior, higher octane fuel and pay less.