From ethanol export data to 2017 production forecasts, news this week painted the ethanol industry in a thoroughly positive light. And that was before the bombshell report released Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that sent the industry reeling. Just ahead, it’s your weekly news roundup!

USDA: Ethanol’s environmental benefits greater than estimated

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has concluded that ethanol made from corn is better for the environment than previously expected.

The report, the first of its kind from the USDA to examine the actual impact of ethanol, said the biofuel reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 43% percent relative to gasoline, significantly more than the 21% estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010.

That marks a potential blow to critics who have questioned whether ethanol, the foundation of the country’s biofuels program, is better for the environment than petroleum-based fuels.

For more on this story, visit Reuters and the Renewable Fuels Association.

US ethanol exports continue to surge in Q4

The United States exported 121.9 million gallons of ethanol in November—down 7% from October’s total, but still the third-largest monthly total in five years, according to government trade data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association.

Brazil was the top market in November, followed by Canada and China. Year-to-date exports stood at 947.4 million gallons, implying an annual total of 1.034 billion gallons for calendar year 2016.

Shipments to Brazil jumped to 50.9 million gallons in November, representing 42% of the monthly total and making Brazil the top destination for U.S. ethanol for the second straight month. Exports to Brazil have been rising steadily since May.

Canada scaled back from the prior month as 24.8 million gallons (20% of U.S. ethanol exports) moved north of the border in November. Meanwhile China increased its purchases of U.S. ethanol, pulling in 19.8 million gallons (16%) and the country’s largest monthly volume since April.

Check Biofuels Digest for a further breakdown of the quarter’s results.

EIA raises 2017 ethanol blending, production forecast

The US Energy Information Administration has raised its forecast for ethanol production as well as blending into the U.S. gasoline pool in 2017.

In its Short Term Energy Outlook for January, the EIA’s production forecast for 2017 climbed 3,800 b/d from its December outlook. The forecast rose to 1.0046 million b/d from 1.0008 million b/d.

The EIA also forecast there will be an average of 940,000 b/d of fuel ethanol blended with gasoline in 2017, up from its December forecast of 937,000 b/d.

Domestic ethanol consumption has climbed as higher blending mandates encourage obligated parties to blend more ethanol into the gasoline pool. The four-week average of the ethanol blending rate averaged 9.99% in December, up from 9.38% in the same month of 2015.

Get more details at Platts.

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Geoff Hayward

Communications Advisor at Novozymes
Geoff writes about Bioenergy for the Communications team at Novozymes. When he isn’t advocating for an industry that’s changing the world for the better, he can be found on a North Carolina bike path or playing slide guitar.