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Developments in U.S. Ethanol Exports

After transitioning from a net importer of ethanol to a net exporter during 2010, the United States exported record levels of ethanol through the end of 2011 and looks to be on track to continue exporting significant volumes during 2012 (Figure 1). While U.S. ethanol production capacity remains largely unchanged from 2011, a number of other factors, both domestic and foreign, will influence the U.S. ethanol trade balance moving forward. Sluggish gasoline demand, combined with ethanol blending limits, is currently restraining domestic consumption levels. At the same time, increased Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates call for higher volumes in the fuel supply. In addition, sugarcane ethanol exported from Brazil looks to rebound from a low year in 2011 and compete with U.S. corn ethanol in the world market. These conflicting factors create some uncertainty and will make it harder for U.S. ethanol exports to reach 2011 levels, but ultimately U.S. export volumes should still be significant and should remain the world leader in 2012.

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