As drought conditions continue to impact 2012 crop forecasts and corn prices reach record levels, Nebraska ethanol producers are responding to a changing market.
Like other end users of corn, ethanol producers have significantly reduced their consumption in recent weeks. The latest estimates show the state's ethanol plants operating at approximately 70 percent of capacity - well below the near 100 percent levels last year.
Neb. ethanol plants produced more than two billion gallons of ethanol from corn last year.
"This slowing of production is a natural response to drought related market forces and will not preclude the industry from achieving Renewable Fuel Standard benchmarks," said Steve Hanson, Chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Board.
"Higher than normal ethanol stocks and a large number of existing RIN credits for U.S. refiners combine to make RFS standards achievable well into 2013," said the chairman.
Hanson also noted waiving the RFS would have little effect on the corn availability, citing a recent study by the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development. That analysis concludes a total waiver of RFS would reduce corn prices by less than 5 percent and force only a 5 percent reduction in ethanol production.
"The RFS was created to reduce U.S. petroleum imports and it has done so very effectively", Hanson said.
"In 2011, 14 billion gallons of domestically produced ethanol replaced 13% of oil imports and reduced the nation's trade deficit by $50 billion. For the first time in decades, less than half of U.S. petroleum demand was imported," said Hanson. "In addition, Nebraska motorists saved more than $50 million in fuel costs due to the lower price for ethanol fuels."
Hanson also noted that the reliable supply of high protein distillers feed produced at Nebraska ethanol plants is an important component of livestock feed supplies in Nebraska.
Nutritionists have found that wet distiller's feeds are an excellent supplement to poor quality grass and other roughage used to feed cattle during drought conditions.
"Feed efficiency is essential to livestock producers and the use of distillers feed is a practical way to help accomplish that objective," Hanson said.
A study conducted by Dr. Ken Lemke, chief economist at NPPD, says seventy-seven hundred Nebraskans are employed directly and indirectly as a result of the ethanol industry.
State and local governments receive more than $50 million dollars in tax revenues and $250 million is added to household incomes in the state.