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Happy Days are Here, Again, for the Ethanol Industry

Domestic ethanol demand is expected to remain high.

Happy days are here again at ethanol plants, with profits nearing the all-time high-water mark set in 2014.

The black ink has all but erased the bad old days of 2020 brought on by the pandemic-induced cutback in liquid fuel use that befell the industry.

Scott Irwin, Laurence J. Norton Chair of Agricultural Marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the rapid rise in ethanol plant profits has brought smiles to ethanol plant operators and owners across the United States. “Happy days are here again is an accurate statement right now,” Irwin told Successful Farming in a telephone interview.

Irwin said he doubts that 2021’s profit margins will top the record returns from seven years ago but, because of the incredible ethanol price spike that occurred in the last four months of the year, they will be close. On March 28, 2014, a representative Iowa ethanol plant modeled by Irwin chalked up a record profit margin of $1.53 profit-per-gallon. In mid-November 2021, profits at the representative Iowa plant totaled $1.34 a gallon.

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