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Ron LambertyJanuary 10, 20242 min read

2023 Market Growth to Continue in 2024

ACE's market development efforts set out on an ambitious journey, literally and figuratively, in 2023. Starting with a trip to New Delhi, India, joining the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) at the India Auto Expo to promote India’s move to 20 percent ethanol in gasoline by 2025, and deliver a presentation about U.S. ethanol expansion, and ending by driving our Hybrid Electric Flex Fuel vehicle, “HEFF,” to USGC's Global Ethanol Conference (GEC) just outside of Washington, DC, where I spoke about equipment compatibility to delegates from 40 countries considering ethanol blends to meet global carbon reduction goals. Upon returning to South Dakota, we hosted delegates from Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama, which all plan to require E5 or E10 in 2024 or 2025, on a tour of South Dakota’s ethanol supply chain from fields to fuel tanks.

In between, a trip to Calgary, Alberta, for USGC’s Annual Board of Delegates meeting, included an opportunity to take part in USGC meetings with a Canadian refiner, c-store chains and government officials to address concerns about equipment cost and compatibility with E15. U.S. ethanol exports to Canada for the 2023-’24 marketing year are already ahead of the previous marketing year, and due to the country’s true desire to reduce carbon, and regulations applying relatively evenly to all clean fuel options (and no random rules limiting higher blends), our neighbors to the North will likely have nationwide E15 use before the U.S.

The ethanol fearmongering we’ve battled for decades is being exported around the globe, spreading ghost stories in nations deciding for the first time to add ethanol blends, or those returning to earlier plans recognizing ethanol as the fastest, most cost-effective way to reduce pollution and meet carbon reduction commitments. But ethanol misinformation exports haven’t reduced U.S. domestic supply. Even with virtually every fuel retailer now having several years’ experience handling and marketing ethanol without incident, station owners continue to question E15 equipment compatibility and cost. ACE’s “marketer to marketer” website was busier than ever in 2023, including our Flex Check compatibility tool which had more visits than any previous year.

USDA’s announcement detailing $450 million new Higher Blend Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) funds to help retailers purchase equipment to upgrade their stations and sell higher ethanol blends also boosted website traffic — and retailer visits to ACE’s booths at half a dozen tradeshows across the U.S. in 2023. ACE helps retailers apply for HBIIP grants and provides feedback to USDA on program challenges experienced by marketers. ACE has consistently advocated for changes making the program more accessible to single store and small chain retailers, who own 60 percent of U.S. c-stores and are key to widespread E15 and flex fuel growth. One such change included in the current HBIIP round provides owners of 10 or few stations reimbursement of 75 percent of upgrade costs while larger marketers continue to enjoy a 50 percent cost share.

2024 promises more of the same — international volume growth, more domestic E15 and flex fuel, technological improvements and new products at plants, and hopefully, greater acknowledgement of sustainable ag practices and ethanol’s role in reducing carbon pollution.