The U.S. Grains Council, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association co-sponsored the Virtual Ethanol Buyers Conference on Sept. 23 to bring ethanol buyers from around the globe together with U.S. suppliers.
The goal of the event was to put buyers and sellers into the same space to develop relationships and learn more about why U.S. ethanol offers value, particularly following disruptions to the global agricultural and energy sectors from COVID-19. The educational conference included more than 200 ethanol buyers from 38 countries - comprised of members from the three organizations. Attendees also participated in one-on-one meetings arranged as part of the event.
“The pandemic gripping the world and the resulting absence of travel has allowed us to reflect on the potential opportunities to bring about environmental change,” said Ryan LeGrand, USGC president and CEO, in his opening remarks. “As cars around the world sat parked, we had the opportunity to remember what it means to breathe cleaner air in our towns and cities. As our world begins to return to a state of normalcy, ethanol continues to have the ability to assist in furthering these positive environmental changes and to provide numerous other benefits.”
Juan Sacoto, IHS Markit senior vice president and head of agribusiness consulting for North America, shared his take on the impacts COVID-19 has had on U.S. and global fuel and ethanol markets, saying that while there have been negative impacts, both the global gasoline and ethanol markets are recovering.
“Real-world GDP is projected to fall 5.5% in 2020 – its steepest decline since 1946 – as a result of COVID-19. While global gasoline consumption declined significantly due to COVID-19, it has started to recover,” Sacoto said. “Ethanol companies have been moving faster to become a refiner of things such as high-protein feed and hand sanitizer. A more rapid recovery depends on COVID-19 containment. While demand is likely to bounce back in 2021, it will remain lower due to broader structural factors.
“It may seem that all news is negative – that this difficult time will delay ethanol growth – but it is also pushing the industry to find new ways to sustain growth and expansion.”
The possibility of E15 in the U.S., other countries’ changing environmental policies, diversification of the U.S. ethanol industry and worldwide sustainability and decarbonization initiatives show new potential for U.S. ethanol.
“The ethanol industry is transforming and there is a bright future for it in many areas,” Sacoto said. “COVID-19 presents a significant challenge to the U.S., but we see the economics of ethanol improving more and more. The demand for ethanol is growing.”