Japanese Ethanol Opening Applauded As New Work To Earn Sales Begins

Following the April 17 announcement from the Japanese government that the country’s biofuels policy will now allow imports of the oxygenate ETBE (ethyl tert-butyl ether) produced from U.S. corn-based ethanol, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) efforts in country are shifting to active market development and laying the groundwork with local officials and private industry for new sales.

“The Council is pleased with this decision and that Japan recognizes these improved benefits of U.S. product. We continue to work around the world, sharing the benefits of U.S. ethanol with other countries that are serious about reducing their GHG emissions,” said USGC President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Sleight in a joint statement between the Council, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy. “From this decision, it is unequivocal that continued improvements in carbon intensity reductions are critical to gain and maintain market access for U.S. ethanol.”

The policy shift is part of a Japanese government effort to update its sustainability policy, approved in 2010. The change allowing for U.S. corn-based ethanol imports is an update from the original language in which only sugarcane-based ethanol was eligible for production of the oxygenate ETBE.

The new policy includes increased carbon intensity reduction requirements of the feedstock used to make ETBE – a 55 percent reduction compared to the previously required 50 percent as compared to gasoline. The new policy also recognizes the ability of corn-based, U.S.-produced ethanol to meet that goal, thanks to increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, the result of improvements in production efficiency as well as the emergence and use of co-products like distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS).

The Council’s office in Japan has worked closely, in coordination with U.S. industry partners, with the Japanese government and industry as they have updated this policy.

With new access now available, ethanol market development efforts in Japan, like USGC programs globally, will be specialized to provide key decision makers the information they need to buy U.S.-produced products.

This week, Mike Dwyer, USGC chief economist who also oversees ethanol programs, and Tim Tierney, USGC director of strategic marketing/ethanol in North Asia, visited Japan for meetings along with USGC Country Director Tommy Hamamoto.

In April, the Council also organized a Japanese bioethanol media team, comprised of reporters from key news outlets in Japan. The team obtained fundamental information about the U.S. ethanol value chain as well as U.S. corn production. The team met with policy organizations in Washington, DC, as well as visited a corn farm, ethanol plant, gas station and feed operation in Illinois. The group concluded meetings with discussions related to life cycle analysis and sustainability.

“These types of programs are essential to demonstrate the increasing efficiency of ethanol production in the United States,” Sleight said. “As innovation continues within the corn and ethanol industries, U.S. ethanol will continue to be at the forefront of the global movement to reduce GHG emissions and improve air quality, and our staff will continue to run innovative programs to help us capture and grow new demand around the globe.”