The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Business

February 10, 2013

Corn shortage idles 20 ethanol plants nationwide

POET plant in Alexandria continues to operate

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The persistent drought is taking a toll on producers of ethanol, with corn becoming so scarce that nearly two dozen ethanol plants have been forced to halt production.

The Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry trade group, provided data to The Associated Press showing that 20 of the nation’s 211 ethanol plants have ceased production over the past year, including five in January. Most remain open, with workers spending time performing maintenance-type tasks. But ethanol production won’t likely resume until after 2013 corn is harvested in late August or September. Two plants in Indiana have been idled, but the POET plant in Alexandria continues to operate.

Industry experts don’t expect a shortage — millions of barrels are stockpiled and the remaining 191 plants are still producing. Still, there is growing concern about what happens if the drought lingers through another corn-growing season.

“There’s a lot of anxiety in the industry right now about the drought and a lot of folks watching the weather and hoping and praying this drought is going to break,” said Geoff Cooper, vice president for research and analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association.

“If we get back to a normal pattern and normal corn crop, then I think the industry is in good shape,” Cooper said. “But if this drought persists and it has the same effect on this coming corn crop, then we’ve got a problem.”

America’s ethanol industry has taken off in the past decade. Plants in 28 states produce more than 13 billion gallons of ethanol each year, Cooper said. By comparison, in 2002, the industry produced 2.1 billion gallons. Today, roughly 10 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply is made up of the biofuel.

Roughly 95 percent of U.S. ethanol is made from corn. The National Corn Growers Association estimates that 39 percent of the U.S. corn crop is used in ethanol production.

Corn producers had high hopes going into 2012. Record harvests were predicted.

Then the weather dried up. The drought began before planting and never stopped. Even though more acres were planted in 2012 compared to 2011, 13 percent less corn was harvested.

Availability of locally produced corn is vital for ethanol plants since having it shipped in is too expensive. To make matters worse, the drought hit hardest in many of the top corn-growing states.

Six of the 20 ethanol plants that stopped production are in Nebraska, two in Indiana, and two in Minnesota. Ten states have seen one plant affected. Cooper said the 20 plants employ roughly 1,000 workers combined, but it wasn’t known how many have been laid off.

Valero Energy Corp., idled three plants last year — in North Linden, Ind., and Albion, Neb., in June; and in Bloomingburg, Ohio, in December.

Five plants ceased production in January alone — Abengoa plants in the Nebraska towns of York and Ravenna; a White Energy plant in Plainview, Texas; an Aemetis facility in Keyes, Calif.; and POET Biorefining’s mid-Missouri plant in Macon.

The production stoppages are cutting into ethanol production. The 770,000 gallons per day produced in the last full week of January were the fewest since the U.S. Energy Information Administration began tracking weekly data in June 2010.

That’s not much of an issue for consumers, at least for now, because there are plenty of stockpiles of ethanol. Purdue University agriculture economist Chris Hurt said the nation has more than 20 million barrels of ethanol in stock, slightly more than a year ago, largely because Americans are driving less and driving more fuel-efficient cars. Cooper said, though, that stockpiles are expected to dwindle in the spring and summer as demand picks up and plants remain idled.

Hurt said the ethanol industry needs an end to the drought, a strong corn crop and a drop in corn prices. Corn futures were $5.51 a bushel in May, before the drought’s impact took hold. Prices rose to a peak of $8.34 per bushel in August and were $7.46 per bushel last week.

1
Text Only
Local Business
  • NWS - HB0420 - Funderburk - 04 Man tries to restore father's tainted legacy When news broke earlier this month that the Anderson Dental Clinic had been shut down and several employees, including owner Sally Metzner, had been arrested, Mark Funderburk's main concern was the patients. "A lot of them kept going there because of my dad even after he passed away," he said. "And they didn't deserve this."

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • BIZ - HB0420 - Scott wise -TM Gaining an edge and spreading the word in 2014 Scott owner of Scotty’s Brewhouse with locations in Indianapolis, Muncie, Mishawaka and Bloomington, encourages business owners to interact with customers and use powerful tools such as Twitter, Facebook or even with a blog to their advantage.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • BIZ - HB0420 - Amys Attic - TM Business Profile: Hidden treasures can be found here Amy's Attic Thrift Store, which opened April 1, offers a variety of different items including clothing, accessories, furniture, yard decorations and collectibles.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Business People: April 20 A compilation of news items featuring members of the Madison County business community.

    April 19, 2014

  • NWS-HB0419-IvyTech-JC2.JPG Work begins on new Ivy Tech facility

    Motorists driving on East 60th Street near Columbus Avenue will notice heavy machinery working in preparation for a new educational facility in Anderson.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Clark, Big Joe mug [Duplicate] 'Big Joe' Clark: Understanding the risks within fixed income investments Many retirees associate the concept of taking “risk” with the equity markets. However, as 2013 demonstrated, there is also principal risk in the fixed income arena if an untimely liquidation requires you to sell bonds and generate income.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Heating assistance provided to 4,445 households Almost 5,000 households in Madison and Grant counties received assistance this past winter with their heating bills, members of the Central Indiana Community Action Program learned this week.

    April 18, 2014

  • Lapel obtains required number The Lapel Town Council finally has enough votes to move forward with its voluntary annexation of land south of the town.

    April 17, 2014

  • NWS - HB0418 - Susan Brooks Educators, agribusiness leaders discuss careers Citing approximately 55,000 new jobs being created annually in agribusiness, U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks brought educators and business leaders together to encourage students to consider it as a career path.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Anderson collects nearly $67,000 in bad debt

    The city of Anderson collected almost $67,000 in bad debts owed to the four utility departments in March.

    April 17, 2014

Stocks
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide