Iowa Renewable Fuels Association executive director Monte Shaw says Iowa’s 43 ethanol plants churned out a record amount of the corn-based fuel additive this year.
“We’re excited that we exceeded our previous record and exceeded 4 billion gallons of ethanol production in 2015. That was up a bit over last year (3.9 billion gallons),” Shaw said.
Iowa produced about 27-percent of the nation’s ethanol. Shaw is hoping Iowa can boost ethanol production even further in 2016.
He notes a U.S. Department of Agriculture program will result in the installation more fuel pumps capable of distributing higher blends of ethanol. “That grant program should bring on several more hundred blender pumps over the course of the next year and that’s really going to help,” Shaw said.
In November, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its final targets for using renewable fuels in the next two years under what’s called the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The numbers for ethanol are below the original numbers called for in the law.
Shaw says that gives oil companies a monopoly on fuel choice. “Right now, we’ve got tons of corn sitting around — we can’t sell it, more corn than the world needs,” Shaw said. “But we could be turning into ethanol if consumers were simply given the choice of higher blends like E-15, E-30, or E-85.”
Shaw credits the production increase this year to “efficiency gains and debottlenecking” at existing plants, as well as ethanol production from cellulosic feedstocks such as corn stover and corn kernel fiber.