Renewable Energy Report: January 2018 Report

This report covers U.S. ethanol exports to main destinations through November 2017. It also presents how some markets for U.S. ethanol are changing biofuel policies to revitalize their domestic biofuels sectors in order to accomplish their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

According to data released December 29, 2017 by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. ethanol exports during the first 10 months of 2017 totaled 1,094 million gallons. In addition, on January 5, 2018, USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) released U.S. ethanol export data that included the month of November 2017. This data indicates the United States exported 107.2 million gallons of ethanol during that month. Based on these two data releases, the United States exported 1,201 million gallons of ethanol to all destinations from January to November 2017, up 13.1 percent from the same period in 2016 (1,062 million gallons). The data indicates ethanol exports during the first 11 months of 2017 broke the record high volume exported during the entire 2011 calendar year (1,195 million gallons) (see Figure 1). Brazil, Canada, and India were the main U.S. ethanol export destinations, making up 71.2 percent of total exports during January to November 2017. Through November 2017, U.S. ethanol was exported to 34 countries, up from 29 in 2016. Sixteen of these countries increased their volume of U.S. ethanol imported in 2017 compared with 2016. 

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The U.S. fuel ethanol markets have seen a progressively sharp monthly price decrease from September 2017 to December 2017. Average monthly ethanol rack prices fluctuated between $1.42 and $1.64 from January 2016 to August 2017. This stable trend ended in September 2017 as prices fell from $1.55 to $0.95 in December 2017, according to the Nebraska Ethanol Board. During the same period unleaded gasoline (87 Octane) rack prices, which are usually coincident with ethanol, diverged upwards between $1.82 in August 2017 to $1.99 in November 2017. This is the result of gasoline prices being bolstered by strong oil prices. These trends are illustrated in Figure 1.

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Japan announced December 29, 2017, proposed changes to its fuel ethanol policy, including a set value for U.S. corn-based ethanol GHG emissions at 43.15 gCO2e per MJ. U.S. corn-based ethanol would be allowed for use in bio-ETBE, when combined with Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, starting in April 2018.