March 3, 2015

Major Markets for US Ethanol Exports

Kim Clark, director of biofuels development for the Nebraska Corn Board, submits this post from the recent U.S. Grains Council meeting in Costa Rica:

Recently I attended my first U.S. Grains Council (USGC) meeting as a member of an action team.  Honestly, this was only my second USGC meeting that I have attended since being on staff with the Nebraska Corn Board and I was a bit nervous not knowing what to expect.

The first meeting I attended was in July in Omaha, Nebraska where they announced they would be forming an Ethanol Action Team to review our current ethanol export markets and look at areas to expand ethanol exports.  I was very interested right away in serving on the action team and a couple months later was appointed to serve on the USGC Ethanol Action Team. 

Our first in-person meeting was at this USGC meeting in Costa Rica. The A-team is composed of 22 ethanol plants, corn staff and executives, and ethanol financial groups.  As a first time A-team member on any action team and the first time meeting as an Ethanol Action Team, the agenda was all the information I was armed with.

Let me back up a bit.  Prior to our first in-person meeting, there had been a lot of work done by a steering committee comprised of Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, USGC, and United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Services evaluating foreign markets to expand US ethanol exports. This steering committee has been visiting with key officials in select foreign markets and learning about mandates, hurdles for ethanol imports into those markets, and environmental issues related to low fuel quality for the past year. The USGC Ethanol Action Team was formed to review these evaluations and other potential foreign markets with the goal to expand US ethanol exports worldwide.

We closed a large gap from where the USGC ethanol A-team started discussions in Costa Rica to where we wrapped up our discussions.  In the end, we evaluated key foreign markets for ethanol imports using the following criteria:
  • Current ethanol imports
  • Potential ethanol imports
  • Key changes needed to increase ethanol imports
  • The strategy of the US Grains Council
  • Potential for success
  • Priority ranking
After a couple hours of evaluating each potential foreign market, the Ethanol A-team voted these countries as the major markets for US ethanol imports.  The highest priority is Canada, followed by Japan, Mexico, Philippines, European Union, Colombia, and China.  These recommendations will then be sent to the steering committee. 

There is some work that needs to be done to expand US ethanol export markets, but with a unified effort between the USGC Ethanol Action Team and steering committee, we are sure to expand US ethanol exports.

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