Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Strong Future Ahead for the U.S. Ethanol Industry

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Strong Future Ahead for the U.S. Ethanol Industry

Article excerpt

Everything happens for a reason. While it may be an overused saying, it happens to be true in my case. On April 10, 2015, I was laid off from my job at U.S. Steel in Granite City, after the coke ovens at the facility closed. As a 41-year-old husband and father of two boys, I was forced to start over, beginning with a return to the classroom.

While going back to school was daunting, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After researching several industries, I opted to pursue a degree in process operations technology at my local community college. I was especially interested in the growth potential of the renewable fuels industry. As I have learned, biofuels producers have made tremendous strides in the production of ethanol from corn, growing by leaps and bounds. Thanks in part to the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal program that helps provide greater choice at the pump, U.S. ethanol production has grown 143 percent from 6.5 billion gallons in 2007 to 15.8 billion gallons in 2017. There are now 15 ethanol facilities in Illinois, collectively producing 1.68 billion gallons of renewable fuels per year.

While it appears the steel industry has likely reached its ceiling of growth, the U.S. ethanol industry is only scratching the surface of future biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials from renewable feedstocks, and I wanted to be a part of that expansion.

In conjunction with my studies, I also began an internship at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. NCERC is the only facility in the world that conducts simultaneous research on corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, advanced biofuels and specialty chemicals. Right in my own backyard, NCERC offered me the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the renewable fuels industry.

During my internship, I received an extensive education in the process for turning field corn into ethanol. …

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