At the National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention in Kansas City, Farm Director, KC Sheperd, got the chance to visit with the President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, Geoff Cooper, about the mission of the RFA and an outlook for the ethanol industry moving forward.
The Renewable Fuels Association, Cooper said, represents U.S. ethanol producers and supporters of renewable fuels.
“We represent the industry’s interest in Washington D.C., but also across the nation in terms of interacting with consumers, with the media, with market development initiatives, but a very strong focus on policy as well,” Cooper said.
The year 2022 has been a profitable year for the ethanol industry, Cooper said, but there have been logistical challenges such as low water levels on rivers, truck driver shortages, infraction, and the threat of rail strikes.
“Over 70 percent of what we produce is shipped on rail,” Cooper said. “We have been keeping a really close eye on these labor discussions and disputes between the rail unions and the railroads.”
Railroads shutting down for any period of time, Cooper said, would be devastating for the ethanol industry.
Solutions to issues impacting the industry, Cooper said, can be found in educating lawmakers and agency officials in Washington D.C., about what is going on in the industry and opportunity for improvement.
“We also expect to benefit significantly from the Inflation Reduction Act, which had a whole lot of tax credits in there for renewable energy, and we believe ethanol- the products that our folks are producing- will qualify for a lot of those tax credits,” Cooper said.
Going into 2023, Cooper said the split congress will create some unique challenges, but also some opportunities.
The most exciting thing for the ethanol industry going forward, Cooper said is uses and opportunities for ethanol that go far beyond a motor fuel and fuel additive for gasoline.
“There is a lot of interest and investment happening in sustainable aviation fuels today, and ethanol is one of the top candidates to play a leading role in sustainable aviation fuels,” Cooper said. “Today we are a fuel for cars, SUVs and trucks. Tomorrow we could very well be the key ingredient in fuel for airplanes and we think that would be a huge opportunity for the industry.”
Regarding the 2023 farm bill, Cooper said he expects to see the continuation of different grant programs, loan guarantees and more that have helped to expand the ethanol industry.
“USDA has been fantastic about investing in the infrastructure necessary to get higher blends of ethanol out to consumers and we think the next farm bill provides an opportunity for the next chapter of those investments,” Cooper said.