The ethanol industry has taken a big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Helena Jette, director of biofuels for Indiana Corn Marketing Council, says ethanol plants in Indiana are running at about 60%-65% production.
“I think that a lot of the ethanol plants are making sure that they are going to ease back into the production and as those profit margins and as the traffic picks up. The thing right now that’s happening in the state of Indiana. It just kind of seems like we’re stuck. If you’ve been following the news and this 4.5 stage with the governor, and I think with implementing mandatory masks, I think a lot are just playing on the cautious side because we just still don’t know where this is going to go over the next few months.”
Ethanol demand is improving though. At the height of the shutdowns in April, gasoline demand was down 55% year over year. Jette says it’s a bit better now.
“Speaking to some of the fuel retailers here in the state, we’re at about from being 55 percent down to about 20 percent down. That’s sort of the number I’m hearing that’s going to carry us throughout the year. They’re not looking to get back to normal, but they are seeing an uptick in folks starting to commute.”
Jette says that will hopefully increase demand for Unleaded 88 across the state as well, which is gasoline that contains 15% ethanol.
“We are at about 72 E15, what we call Unleaded 88, locations in Indiana. That’s a lot compared to some of the other states. Indiana is in the top 10, and we’re definitely making traction with that.”
Unleaded 88 is typically 5-10 cents cheaper than Unleaded 87 and is perfectly safe for cars 2001 and newer.