By DOUG GRAVES
WILMINGTON, Ohio — Despite saying it’s coming under attack from oil companies, consumer groups and even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bob Dinneen – president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Assoc. – explained the ethanol industry will survive and prosper in years to come.
But, more confrontations are in its path. “I see a royal battle coming ahead,” Dinneen told 500 people who gathered at the Ohio Grain Farmers Symposium last week in Wilmington. “The American Petroleum Institute (API) that worked with us to create the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in 2005 that creates tremendous demand for corn and soybeans through the RFS came out last week and said they seek its repeal.
“To a certain extent I like that and I do a happy dance, because it’s far easier to hit back at someone who is looking at you rather than someone who is hiding behind the food companies. This is teeing up to be quite a robust debate that we’ll have next year. I’m confident we’ll win it, but we’ll all have to do our jobs.”
Dinneen told farmers he hopes to rekindle the alliance between his organization and the API.
“They’ll be trying to repeal the program altogether and, quite frankly, they’re messaging these days that we don’t need renewable fuels, that we can be energy-independent,” he said, “yet the more we frack (hydraulic fracturing), I find it ridiculous. We will fight them and make sure that the nation’s commitment to renewable fuels is sustained.”
With fracking grabbing many front-page headlines, Dinneen said ethanol production shouldn’t take a back seat nor sit idle. “We can’t frack our way to energy independence,” he said. “It is a finite resource.
“By 2020 we may be independent of oil, but by 2022 we’ll be in worse shape than we are today because fracking the shale deposits is just a finite energy source. And by 2022 our Renewable Fuels Standard will have expanded to 36 billion gallons.”
Dinneen pointed out by 2005, when Congress passed the RFS, the nation became 60 percent independent of foreign oil. Today, he says, the United States is only 45 percent dependent on that oil – as a result of ethanol production.
“Thanks to the Renewable Fuel Standard we have driven this country to be more energy-independent and secure, and people forget that,” he said.
Two weeks ago the EPA came to the forefront backing ethanol as being viable to the U.S. economy.
“This shows that the EPA wasn’t bowing to the politics, because 77 percent of the comments that were filed were in favor of granting a waiver,” Dinneen said. “They didn’t look at the numbers. They looked at the facts, and the facts were clearly on our side. I was pleased, but I won’t say surprised, because I felt our case was compelling.”
Finally, questions from last week’s audience seemed proof that some grain farmers still have misconceptions about ethanol. “Some livestock producers don’t know or don’t want to recognize is that we are producing both a fuel and a feed product,” Dinneen said.
“In fact, we produced enough distillers grain last year to feed every steer that is fed on a feedlot in this country. We produce some 36 million metric tons of distillers feed. It’s not like we’re taking the starch out of the corn kernel, making our ethanol and dumping the rest in the Pacific Ocean.
“We are adding significantly to our feed supplies, and were that distillers feed to go away, I think some dairymen, cattle producers and even some poultry folk would suffer greatly, because our feed product is a very high-quality, high-protein feed and it is extremely important and increasing important in feed rations,” he added.
Despite the bombardment from all angles, Dinneen said ethanol will thrive.
“This has been a challenging year, but I know the industry is going to get through it,” he said. “We’ll be a meaner and leaner industry in the end. We’ll also be a healthier industry.”