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Ethanol is good for Nebraska

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Mr. Brad, this one is for you!






I am frequently asked if I think ethanol production is good for Nebraska. I think well managed ethanol production have been very good for the Nebraska economy. While the industry was supported with a strong infusion of public dollars, the value added use of corn and import of transportation fuel dollars into the state rather than export of all the dollars out of the state has changed our Nebraska economy.

On the local scene the market for corn has been favorably affected by ethanol. I am not talking about the difference from $4 corn to $7 corn. I am talking about a fifteen to twenty cent per bushel impact. We have also been blessed that the local plant has been well managed and has taken advantage of changes, which have increased efficiency in the process. A significant factor in our local plant has been the amount of grain storage included in the facility and the recent addition of drying capacity. This is important because we are very much playing catch-up on storage capacity for the growing yields and added acres converted from CRP. Nebraska as a whole has benefitted from the distiller grains for cattle feeding operations, which have expended in the state.

Many ethanol plants have added harvest of some corn oil before the distillers grains are partially of totally dried. This adds to the value and for the future of Beatrice will supply raw corn oil for the Biodiesel plant opening this summer.

What about the future? Syngenta just announced an agreement with Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC, to license its cellulosic technology, a new process for ethanol plants. This technology has been shown to significantly increase a plant’s ethanol production while delivering other benefits such as increased corn oil production and higher protein content in dried distillers grains (DDGs).

The process converts corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol in a bolt-on process, and is designed to increase a plant’s ethanol production. Testing to date demonstrates the concept will run successfully at full commercial scale. The add-on will help create a higher protein feed, 2.5 times more corn oil and more ethanol out of the same kernel of corn. I have long thought that the biggest news in cellulosic ethanol production would come from the ability to generate more ethanol from the same bushel of corn.

Corn traits, which increase the ethanol yields and reduce in plant costs are likely to play a role in future production also. This may be why companies like Syngenta are interested in these technology partnerships. Produce advanced and cellulosic ethanol while decreasing natural gas usage, increasing ethanol throughput and reducing an ethanol plant’s carbon footprint are all advantages. The feed usage side is likely to have a bit of reduced value. I certainly think these kinds of improvements in ethanol production are more sustainable than baling stalks and reduce carbon levels in our soils, which could reduce future yield potentials.



Link to the article here.


For more information e-mail Paul C Hay at phay1@unl.edu, call 402-223-1384, or visit the University of Nebraska Extension local Website: gage.unl.edu



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When I was growing up (80s and early 90s), rail shipment of grain out of the local elevators was a major issue.  Simply there was too much corn, and not enough places to ship it out, as these were very far away.  When you figure in what yields have gone up in those 20+ years, this issue would have only gotten much larger.


The piece mentioned how these facilities have added a great storage capacity, that is a huge piece.


The more important piece, is that a substantial portion of the local corn harvest is being trucked 5-20 miles to the ethanol plant, rather than being railed 1-2,000 miles to an export terminal.


Like in the pioneer days in the Appalachians, when the settlers would convert their corn harvest into whiskey, and transport this down the river system to New Orleans.  Ethanol plants are doing the same thing (though on a MUCH larger, and denaturized scale ;) ).    How many unit trains (110 cars I believe) of grain hoppers would it take to ship out the corn it takes to make 1 unit train of ethanol?


Another piece of the puzzle is the "value added" nature of the industry.  Rather than shipping out bulk commodities, with few direct jobs other than the one farmer, and the folks working at the elevator, we are processing this comodity in the state, greatly adding to its value with the production of...

* ethanol


* corn oil/biodiesel

* CO2

* many others if a wet mill


Some plants are also spawning other spin-off plants producing bio-plastics compounds, custom feeds, and other ingredients. 


All of this means by the time that 1 kernel of corn leaves our state, it has greatly magnified in value, and has produced many more jobs.  Those jobs then are multiplied through the economy.  Absolutely revolutionary what has happened in our Midwestern economy since I graduated high school in 1993.  At that time, the farm economy had been circling the toilet for decades.  Those still in it were considered either stubborn or stupid, or a combination of the two.  Few saw any hope for anything but simply "hanging on longer"...  but there was a few that rolled the dice and invested in this crazy ethanol scheme that some slick salesmen were pitching.  Those gullible suckers (as they were seen at the time) took money that could have been used to stave off the farm for another few years, and put it on the table.  Those folks saved a way of life, a culture, a state.  Not just here, but multiplied out in other states as well.

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