U.S. became world’s top ethanol exporter in 2011


The United States became the world’s leading exporter of ethanol in 2011, selling a record level of the biofuel into overseas markets, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

The nation has made a stunning about-face in its role in the global ethanol market. Just two years ago, the United States was a net importer of the fuel, which is blended into gasoline by federal mandate.

Through November, the United States exported 1.02 billion gallons of ethanol in 2011, in denatured and undenatured forms. That’s more than double the volume exported in all of 2010, about 400 million gallons, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol industry’s trade group.

“Prior to 2010, it was rare for the U.S. to export much ethanol at all. Then in 2011, it just exploded,” said Geoff Cooper, vice president of research for the Renewable Fuels Associations. “The U.S. is far and away  the leading exporter of ethanol worldwide.”

Brazil has long held that title, but its ethanol market has suffered from high prices and short supplies in recent years, Cooper said. Brazil produces its ethanol from sugarcane, which has been in short supply because of unfriendly weather. The shortage has made it a much more expensive ethanol feedstock compared to corn.

While Brazil has struggled to meet its own ethanol demand, the U.S. ethanol market has been saturated, making its price more attractive in the global market, Cooper said.

In fact, he noted, Brazil was the top destination for U.S. ethanol in 2011, followed by Canada, Mexico and the Netherlands.

Brazil “has left a void on the world market and the U.S. has filled that void,” Cooper said, adding that the new role likely will continue through 2012. “We do expect continued strength in the export market because it is going to take Brazil some time to get back on its feet and be a leading exporter.”

Simone Sebastian

20 Responses

  1. Mike Foster says:

    The production of Ethanol also consumes massive amounts of water to grow corn in places like western Nebraska and western Kansas.

  2. Burrito-boy says:

    While I won’t comment on the worthiness of ethanol…….one thing the article failed to mention is that BRAZILIAN companies are the major manufacturer of ethanol (as well as bio-diesel) in America. A Brazilian company is also one of the major “Wind Energy” producers.

    So….our tax dollars are flooding into Brazil…..instead of into American farms.

  3. Frank says:


    The U.S. grows less than 2% of the world’s rice and U.S. rice acres haen’t changed in the last 20 years. And we’re not planting any less wheat today than we were 10 years ago. Wheat exports have been at historically high levels in recent years. So the notion that farmers are planting more corn at the expense of food crops is wrong.

    I don’t disagree that we feed too much corn to meat animals and that meat production is a fairly inefficeint use of grain (i.e., it takes something like 10 lbs. of corn to make 1 lb. of beef!). So let’s use those carbohydrates for energy (fuel for our cars), rather than as filler for our food.

    Mike H, you’ll be happy to know the subsidy for usng ethanol ended on Dec. 31, 2011. Too bad we didn’t do away with oil and gas subsidies at the same time!

  4. Mike H. says:

    I also think ethanol is unreal, a scam. It just keeps the agriculture lobby happy. If it’s such a good fuel, axe the subsidies.

  5. Timbo says:

    Actually, we feed the world with wheat and other grains. However, those farmers aren’t making enough profits with wheat, rice, etc so they switch over to a subsidized corn. Thus, corn, indirectly, will starve the nations we feed.

    Corn is the root of all our food issues. We are now forcing corn down the throats of cattle (bad for their stomachs, main cause why we now lack Omega Fatty 3 acids in beef, muscle now resembles that of fat more so than muscle 20 years ago), pigs, farm raised salmon, chickens, etc. It is in 85% of our processed foods. It is made to do anything from sweeten foods, to making them thicker, to making chemicals similar to battery acid. We are engineering corn to be grown for specific areas: human consumption, food additives, animal feed and fuel.

    The government (not a specific party) is the cause of this for the few farmers still out there. Yes, the US has some of the cheapest food in the world, but it is also some of the unhealthiest thanks to the scientific break throughs with corn.

  6. Frank says:


    Can we have a civil discussion without the insults and SHOUTING? I am happy to debate you on the food issue all day long and am certain I will win when all the facts are considered.

    U.S. corn doesn’t feed people directly-period, end of story. We aren’t talking about sweet corn here, Bob. The corn used for ethanol is field corn that makes meat for people with money in other developed nations. I hope you have a good dentist if you try to eat field corn. The top five markets for U.S. corn exports historically are: 1. Japan; 2. Mexico; 3. South Korea; 4. Taiwan; and 5. Egypt. Those five countries typically account for 75% of corn exports. Others in the top 10 are Canada and some EU countries. These are all affluent nations with low hunger and poverty rates and relatively high GDP. Less than 1% of our corn goes to the poorest 25 nations. You can look this up on USDA’s web site fairly easily.

    By the way, if we are “feeding millions of starving people around the world with our corn,” then they wouldn’t be starving anymore, right? That’s a bit oxymoronic (heavy emphasis on “moronic”).


  7. Bob Hunt says:

    To Frank,

    Pull your head out of your A&&, quit sprouting your absured garbage. We feed millions of starving people around the world with our corn.

    Ethanol does not mix with gasoline it must be added during the filling process of tankers from two seperate tanks prior to delivery to the service stations. Ethanol attracts water like a sponge and if you leave it in your tank you will have three distinct layers Water on bottom, ethanol mid way and gasoline on top. Ethanol has less energy in net BTU’s than gasoline and if left in your car will rot all your o-rings, gaskets, and any other remaining soft goods that come in contact with it.


  8. Carter says:

    The ETHANOL thing is a “SCAM”. Do you know how much gas or other energy is required to produce a gallon of ethanol? Do you know how damaging ethanol can be to various recipicating engines, even if it is only a 10% blend? Did you know that you don’t get as much milage on a gallon of ethanol compared to a gallon of gasoline? This is a scam for people to make money!….

  9. If you are concerned about the use of foodstuff for fuel feedstock, check out http://www.AdvancedBiofuelsUSA for information about developments of alternatives.

  10. Frank says:

    Most of these comments are horribly uninformed. The notion that corn ethanol has caused food prices to triple or that it is causing starvation is just ridiculous. This myth was buried long ago. Where is your proof of these wild claims? Anyone know how this year’s food inflation rates are likely to compare to years past? Anyone know that 2009 food inflation rates were the lowest in 50 years, despite record ethanol production? Kittyg, American corn does not “feed the world.” It feeds cows, pigs and chickens in rich countries where consmers want more meat. JB, do oil prices not “depend on the weather”? I seem to recall numerous price shocks resulting from offshore rigs getting wiped out by huricanes, or refineries breaking down in the heat of the summer. And what happens to natgas prices during an extended cold snap?? Billy, I’d love to use $3 natural gas in my car, but I don’t know where to buy it or how to put it in my tank! Get real folks! Ethanol is the only legitimate alternative we have to oil. It ain’t perfect, but it sure beats importing more oil. Let’s have a real discussion here.

  11. Gulf guy says:

    Corn based Ethanol is a scam. Period.

  12. bmolk says:

    Yes, at the expense of the American tax payer. And additionally, we get to pay more for gasoline and food. Isn’t it wonderful that the oil companies and the farmers get richer while the middle class struggles to survive. After all, we have to drive to our jobs (those that still have them) and we have to eat. It’s time for Ron Paul for President.

  13. Bob says:

    Taxes paying private enterprise to sell a doubtful valued fuel. Love this popularist government and leaders. Where can I line up at the trough of corruption. Reminds me of the third world countries i have worked in. Ole Bait and Switch must be proud of his donors making so much from taxes.

  14. Kittyg says:

    America pretty much feeds much of the world! Using corn for ethanol causes starvation in a lot of the world! There are other sources for ethanol than corn which would not affect feeding people!

  15. Trail_Tramp says:

    Stop all corn exports. Poor people in the US are having to pay too much for Doritos.

  16. JB says:

    One more reason we shouldn’t get fuel from food. Or a product that depends on the weather.

  17. Woodlands Dad says:

    In other words, we now export record quantities of corn in two ways.

  18. SaltWaterCroc says:

    Another government subsidized crop that is damaging the world supply. But Monsanto is happy, and since they pay many of our government employees, it has a few benefits.

  19. Ed says:

    It doesn’t mention the subsidies paid to corn growers by taxpayers… or the fact that corn-based food products have tripled in price.

  20. Billy says:

    What an absolute joke of a fuel. Thanks to the government (both past and present) for saturating the market and fields with corn. I would hate for us to use natural gas, something that is easily produced, transported in PIPELINES (not corrosive like ethanol) and dirt cheap.