Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Corn shortage idles 20 ethanol plants nationwide

Ethanol Corn Shortage

FILE - This Oct. 4, 2012 file photo shows un-harvested corn in a field near Council Bluffs, Iowa. Corn growers had high hopes going into the 2012 planting season but the drought that began last spring hit the corn crop hard. As a result, corn prices skyrocketed and corn has become scarce in some regions, forcing 20 ethanol plants around the country to halt production. Most are not expected to resume production until after 2013 corn is harvested in late August or September. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

ST. LOUIS — 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.

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.

“I cannot see any profitability in this industry until we get lower corn prices, and it’s going to take a reasonable-sized U.S. crop,” Hurt said.

Officials at the nation’s leading ethanol makers – Archer Daniels Midland and POET – declined to speculate about whether additional plants will close. POET spokesman Matt Merritt said producing ethanol at Macon became cost-prohibitive because of the lack of available Missouri corn, and shipping it in was simply too expensive.

Cooper said most of the idled plants expect to restart production – just not anytime soon. Corn is expected to remain scarce and expensive at least until the 2013 crop is harvested, starting in late August and into September. Cooper believes ethanol production won’t resume at most plants until then.

For now, many of the plants remain open with workers doing maintenance or helping to modernize the facilities while they wait for production to resume, Cooper said.

Only one of the closed production facilities, an ADM plant in Wallhalla, N.D., may be closed for good, Cooper said.

“Generally the industry is optimistic,” Cooper said. “We’re just going through a rough patch here.”

Not everyone associated with the industry is that optimistic.

Brian Baalman farms near Menlo, Kan., typically growing 8,000 acres of corn each year. Last year’s crop was about one-third of that. This year, he may plant only the one-third of his acreage where irrigation is available this summer.

Like many growers, Baalman has a direct interest in ethanol. He is on the board of Western Plans Energy in Oakley, Kan., and has stock in seven ethanol plants. He said near-record prices for corn, driven up by the drought-fueled shortage, are making ethanol production costs too high.

“We are burning up all our excess cash just to stay running at a reduced rate to keep people working and keep the people there, keep the lights on, so to speak,” Baalman said. “It’s very tough right now.”

“A lot of these ethanol plants aren’t going to make it,” Baalman said.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 5 Comments

Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
 
Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

 
Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 7 Comments

.

Opinion

Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 14 Comments

 
Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9