Ethanol Series at Financial Times

Financial Times has put up a series on ethanol in their “In Depth” section:

In Depth: Ethanol

I haven’t had a chance to read the articles, but did speak with a Financial Times reporter and had several e-mail correspondences prior to publication of the series. I don’t know yet if they used anything I gave them, but we covered quite a bit of ground. The primary focus of the series is on the causes of the ethanol boom and subsequent bust.

I just arrived back in the U.S. last night, so as soon as I liquidate a ton of correspondence, I will put up some new posts.

11 thoughts on “Ethanol Series at Financial Times”

  1. I didn’t see the report. But I don’t take Dineen seriously. The RFA pays him $300,000 a year to essentially defend ethanol against all charges. In that aspect, he is just a defense attorney who defends the client, guilty or not.

    I did find it interesting that he called Dan Kammen an ethanol critic. I have criticized Kammen for being an ethanol booster:

    Dan Kammen Promoting Ethanol on 60 Minutes

    Of course Kammen later co-wrote a report that suggested the greenhouse gas savings from ethanol had been overstated. Thus, he is now an ethanol critic. (I guess it depends what he is saying over a particular issue).

    Cheers, RR

  2. Well guys, we might not be talking about ethanol, oil palms, PHEVs or anything else in a few more weeks.
    Brent spot prices below $60.
    Of course, the price of oil is set speculatively. It could be $80 in two months.
    But right now, it looks like a full-on glut is shaping up. If global demand retreats 10 percent 9as it did in the global recession floowing the last prce soke) that will throw another unwanted 8.7 mbd on global markets. Add to that 1-3 mbd of fresh supply (even doomsters say output slated to rise).
    We could see a market that wants 79 mbd a day, but has nearly 90 mbd of supply. One out of every eight barrels of production will not have a buyer.
    The other turn of the screw is that some producers, to make more money, will have to pump more.
    No more backward bending supply curve.
    More news is that refineries to handle heavy and sour crude are coming online — this is the type of crude that sometimes piled up in tankers etc.
    I notice TOD and the doom sites are resolutely paying attention to everything except the possibility we may soon face a runaway glut of oil.
    Maybe we can kill corn ethanol now, though I doubt it. It has too big of a constituency.

  3. “Brent spot prices below $60.”

    Benny, let me hang a mildly off-topic comment on your observation.

    For many years now, I have been hearing high-paid advisors make prognostications about oil prices based on inventory levels — and those predictions have often turned out to be wrong. The experience has left me wondering if our definition of "inventory" is somehow lacking.

    Only a few months ago, when the price of oil was rising, it made sense for individuals & businesses to keep their tanks full; don't wait until the price goes up to refill — replace that gallon right away.

    Now with the price of oil & gasoline going down, the reverse is true — still got a quarter tank left? keep driving, price will be even lower when you have to fill up; hell, don't even fill up then, just take a couple of gallons and drive on.

    Multiply that by all the many individuals and businesses throughout the western world, and a change in attitude might look like a 10% drop in global demand — at least for a short while.

    The inventory in users' tanks is very hard to track. Bottom line, maybe demand has not dropped as much as short-term indicators might suggest. There may be a price upswing in our future.

  4. The anti-ethanol crowd is worse than the flat earthers. They expect us to believe everything was a speculative bubble EXCEPT the grain markets. A 20% increase in demand for American corn caused rice,wheat,and corn prices to quadruple. Never mind that all those crops had record harvests. Never mind that Brazils’ use of sugar for ethanol hasn’t done squat for sugar prices. Or that grain prices,including corn,fell just as hard as any other commodity when the bubble popped. No,we’re just supposed to believe. Keep the faith…against all reason.

  5. The U.S. only produces 44% of the world’s corn. So,a 20% increase in demand for U.S. corn….over a multi-year period,mind you…is only an 8.8% demand increase on the world crop. No way in hell that caused a shortage of rice,wheat,and barley as well. And it didn’t cause them to double in price last year OR drop the price by half this year. That’s just silliness.

  6. Food/Fuel Reality Check: “Speculative Bubble” Was Real Source of Corn Price Increases Says New Study

    OTTAWA, ONTARIO, Oct 24, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) — A new study by independent forecasting company Global Insight ( concludes that commodities speculation rather than ethanol production was the principal factor in higher corn prices this past summer. Many critics had previously blamed ethanol production for the record price of corn.
    “The record high prices were a speculative bubble,” said Stewart Ramsey, senior economist for Global Insight, Philadelphia

  7. Robert, do you know of any good resources on refinery processes? I am looking for something comprehensive.

  8. Kinu:
    Hey, I agree with you. Still, I see a strong possibility of monster glut shaping up, in about one to two years.
    I hope we can dodge a global recesion, and in that case, oil prices could be anywhere you want to predict.
    But in a global recession?
    The marginal cost of production is about $2 in the Mideast, and maybe $10 worldwide.
    PS Gasoline inventories, to my knowledge, do NOT include the gasoline kept in the nation’s 200,000 gasoline stations. They could be topping off or running low, but no one tracks the amounts.

  9. Maury said, “Global Insight ( concludes that commodities speculation rather than ethanol production was the principal factor in higher corn prices this past summer.”

    Speculators? True, but those were corn speculators trying to take advantage of the ethanol boomlet.

    Is there any difference whether the price increase was caused directly by ethanol production, or indirectly by corn speculators trying to profit from ethanol production?

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