Ethanol Gets Boost from Rising Oil Prices
by Erin Golden (Omaha.com) …Headlines about higher gas prices are putting a big-picture focus on the country’s dependence on oil, said Todd Becker, the CEO of Omaha-based ethanol producer Green Plains Renewable Energy. And on a smaller scale, he said, the price surge is getting people to think again about their options at the pump.
“Overall, it awakens people to say, ‘What are our choices?’” he said. “And that’s not bad for the industry, and it’s not bad for Nebraska.”
Lucy Norton, managing director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said sales of E85 fuel in the state increased by more than 40 percent from 2009 to 2010, and the upward trend seems to be continuing this year. She said Iowa, the country’s top ethanol producer, didn’t see any major plant shutdowns over the last few years and its well-established facilities are interested in growing.
“They are constantly evaluating and installing different technologies, looking for production efficiency and improvement,” she said. “We’ve seen the volume of ethanol you can recover from a bushel of corn increasing and energy usage reduced by ethanol facilities.”
In Nebraska, Ethanol Board administrator Todd Sneller said a couple of projects — most notably those owned by Aventine Renewable Energy, which went into bankruptcy during the recession — were delayed.
But over the past few weeks, production levels at plants across the state have been up. Sneller said that’s good news for the industry, though it hasn’t necessarily translated into bigger profits. Corn prices have been running high, which means that a short-term bump in ethanol production doesn’t give producers an immediate boost. READ MORE