Duane Bonifer  |   Published November 14, 2016

A Bright Future

Ethanol has bright future in U.S. and abroad, ag leader says
  • Craig Willis, president of the ethanol business in Archer Daniels Midland Co.’s Corn Processing business unit, delivers the inaugural Wiswell-Robeson Lecture.
Ethanol has a bright future because of growth at home and abroad.

That was the message one of the world’s leading experts on the product delivered Monday night at Monmouth College.

Craig Willis, president of the ethanol business in Archer Daniels Midland Co.’s Corn Processing business unit, delivered the inaugural Wiswell-Robeson Lecture on Monday night in the Kasch Performance Hall of the Dahl Chapel and Auditorium.

Willis works at the North American headquarters in Decatur, Ill., of ADM, the largest producer of ethanol in the United States.

Most U.S. consumers use gas that contains at least 10 percent ethanol.

“If you fill up with gasoline, there is a 95-plus percent chance that you’ve got ethanol in your tank when you fill up,” Willis said.

Willis said that some people have assumed that times have been tough recently for the ethanol industry in the United States since the price of gasoline dropped over the last 18 months.
“One of the common questions I get is, ‘OK, gas prices are cheap, that must be bad for ethanol,’” he said.

As Willis pointed out, an abundance of relatively cheap gas in the United States has also driven up demand for the fuel. Gasoline demand in the United States is up about 2 percent over the last year.

“Our biggest demand base is now getting bigger,” he said.

About 15 billion gallons of ethanol a year are produced annually in the United States, and about 1 billion of those gallons are exported, Willis said.

“We’re trying develop markets, not just domestically but all over the world,” he said.

The United States sends a great deal of its ethanol to China, Brazil and India, where the cleaner-burning fuel helps reduce those nations’ pollution problems.

“We have a big advantage from an air-quality standpoint,” Willis said.

Other major clients of U.S.-produced ethanol are Middle East nations, mainly because of the product’s low cost.

“It’s strictly the value of our product and the octane value of our product is why other countries are buying ethanol,” Willis said.

Looking to the future, Willis said he hopes the industry can get U.S. energy companies to expand the amount in their gasoline from 10 to 15 percent, which would effectively increase ethanol production by about 50 percent.

“We spend an immense amount of time on this,” he said.

The Wiswell-Robeson Lecture was founded earlier this year, thanks to a gift from 1960 Monmouth graduate Jeanne Gittings Robeson of Monmouth. The purpose of the annual lecture is to feature a speaker from the agriculture community who will explore issues, challenges and innovations in the industry. Robeson and her late husband, Don Robeson, who was a 1954 Monmouth graduate, operated their farm in Warren County.   Event photos 
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