Grain Bins


Celebrating ethanol: America’s fuel

Posted on July 07, 2021
Ethanol blog 7 7 21 v2 black and white flag

Summertime in South Dakota just feels sweet. We pretty much all can agree on that. Whether you took a trip to the lake with family and friends to celebrate Independence Day or had a BBQ in the backyard, biofuels likely played a part in your celebration and helped you get wherever you may travel.

As we celebrate our country’s independence and what it means to be free, it’s also important to reflect on how our home-grown energy solutions fuel not only South Dakota, but also the greater impact it has on our country.

Recently, there has been a huge shift in the national conversation toward fuels that are sustainable and lower the overall carbon footprint of transportation in the U.S. Although the conversation has taken many twists and turns, one fuel has remained constant: ethanol.

Checkoff for good

Standing behind low-carbon, high octane fuels, we at South Dakota Corn are committed to a solution for reducing the carbon intensity of liquid fuels. In fact, a portion of corn checkoff dollars collected by the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council are invested into expanding the market uses of corn via ethanol and its coproducts through collaboration with organizations such as the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE).

“Checkoff funding support from the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council enables the American Coalition for Ethanol to educate petroleum marketers and retailers about the benefits of higher ethanol blends, translating into millions of gallons of new ethanol demand each year,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of the American Coalition for Ethanol.

This organization brings together a variety of industry professionals including farmers, ethanol producers and consumers to inform and educate them about the industry and how we all fit together to promote and protect the benefits created by this high-octane, low-carbon fuel source.

Additionally, checkoff dollars collected in the state also help develop new markets for ethanol and its co-products, including uses for farmers and ranchers right here in South Dakota.

Through the continued support of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, market development for ethanol co-products as livestock feed can continue with the help of our checkoff dollars. Ethanol plants can produce corn oil by extracting it from Dried Distillers Grains (DDGs) during the distillation process, which can then be used in the feed market and help provide part of a healthy diet for your or your fellow farmer’s livestock. DDGS typically has a composition of 27% protein, 11% fat and 9% fiber, making them a valuable addition to cattle feed.

SD Corn Growers get it done

How important is ethanol to the economy in the state? Simply put in three facts:

  1. Agriculture is the state’s No. 1 industry.

  2. Corn is the state’s No. 1 crop.

  3. Ethanol production consumes more than half of the corn that’s harvested in South Dakota.

Without the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, none of this would be possible. As the farmer-led, South Dakota-focused policy arm of SD Corn, SDCGA serves as a collective voice on legislation and policy issues at the state and national level and acts as a true grassroots organization.

With the lobbying support of SDCGA, ethanol production was created in the state and will continue to be a major part of the corn industry in South Dakota. Ethanol and biofuel plants are the heart and soul of many rural communities and our state is home to 16 plants with a combined processing power of 424 million bushels of corn each year.

According to Doug Berven, Executive Director with the South Dakota Ethanol Producers Association, the average plant contributes about $200 million annually to their local communities and has played a major role in helping to rejuvenate rural America. He said the list is nearly endless of what they can do for the community, starting with lowering the price of fuel locally and increasing the basis of corn for local farmers.

“These plants aren’t just ethanol plants, they are biorefineries and help lay the foundation for using grain and biomass to do a whole lot more than just ethanol and feed,” said Berven. “They help serve as the foundation for additional technology to be built upon. We can make anything out of a bushel of corn that the oil industry can make out of a barrel of oil, it’s just a matter of biotechnology and economics.”

The Future of ethanol

A lot of time and resources have gone into creating a sustainable ethanol industry in South Dakota, yet there is still much work to be done. New areas for growth are forming, especially when it comes to higher blended fuel.

On July 2, the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed a rule by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2019 that lifted the outdated sales restrictions on E-15, a fifteen percent blend of ethanol in fuel. This is a setback to the Ethanol industry not only in South Dakota but across the country. However, organizations such as South Dakota Corn, National Corn Growers Association, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association are not discouraged, but rather hard at work pursuing all options and working with congressional delegations to ensure there is a future for ethanol and biofuels in the transportation sector in the U.S.

Recently, Sens. Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ernst (R-IA) and Thune (R-SD) introduced three pieces of legislation at the beginning of July to help expand the use of higher blended ethanol.

  • The Biofuel Infrastructure and Agricultural Product Market Expansion Act: co-sponsored by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), would authorize a higher biofuel blends infrastructure grant program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bill increases the funding authorization and duration of the grant program.

  • The Clean Vehicles Act: also cosponsored by Senator Ernst, would establish a $200 per vehicle refundable tax credit for manufacturers for the production of flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs)

  • The Low Carbon Biofuels Credit Act: co-sponsored by Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), would establish a 5 cent per gallon tax credit for sales of 15% ethanol blends and a 10 cent per gallon tax credit for sales of blends greater than 15%. The credit would be fully refundable.

Continuing the good fight

Nothing fuels our state the way ethanol does; whether it comes out of your cornfield, it’s in your vehicle, you feed your cattle with DDGs or it’s at the heart of your small town.

As we continue to celebrate our country and our fight to expand low-carbon, high-octane renewable fuels, be sure to catch this week’s Farming in the 605 podcast episode. Our host, Mike Pearson, catches up with Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, on what’s been going on with biofuels and biofuel policy.

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