The U.S. ethanol industry hopes to see an early resolution to the ongoing trade tensions between China and the United States in order to win a big share of the booming Asian market, industry insiders have said.
"We'd love to develop the (Chinese) market and be a key supplier," Nick Bowdish, president and CEO of Elite Octane, LLC, told Xinhua recently at his ethanol plant in Atlantic, a small city in the U.S. state of Iowa.
Ethanol, a type of alcohol produced from corn, is often mixed with gasoline as biofuels, such as the widely-used E10, a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. It has been proved to be able to greatly reduce air pollution from vehicle emissions.
As a privately-held company opened in 2018, Elite Octane produces 150 million gallons (around 567 million liters) of ethanol out of some 50 million bushels of corn (127,000 metric tons of corn) every year at the plant located in the U.S. heartland with abundant corn production, according to Bowdish.
The United States stands out as a top ethanol producer and consumer in the world. Bowdish said that China has been a "terrific market" for U.S. ethanol in the past few years as the country has stepped up efforts to promote clean energies.
In September 2017, China announced a plan for nationwide use of E10 by 2020, which would require a considerable amount of imports.
"I'm hugely supportive of China's initiative to go to a 10 percent ethanol blend," said Bowdish, noting that he was speaking from not only the perspective of a producer, but also that of a consumer because "it burns cleaner."
Rodney Williamson, director of research and development at Iowa Corn Promotion Board, shared a similar view. In an interview with Xinhua at his office in Johnston, Iowa in late April, Williamson said that China's ambitious plan is going to increase the consumption of ethanol in the country significantly, and to create a market for U.S. ethanol.
China imported over 278 million gallons (around 1.05 billion liters) of U.S. ethanol from 2015 to early 2018 before the U.S.-initiated trade frictions with China, which has led to a suspension of ethanol trade, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The past year has "not been what we want trade relations to be between our two countries," lamented Bowdish. "I don't think either one of us is paying the price alone."
He expressed hope that a trade deal could be made between the two countries as soon as possible, simply because "trade is a good thing" which leads to win-win results.
"We can be a key supplier (of ethanol) to China, and China does a lot of terrific things in manufacturing and other industries that our consumers can benefit from. So we need to work together," he added.
Williamson said that ethanol exports provide U.S. corn farmers with a greater market. "Our goal is to try to open doors, open markets, create opportunities for farmers to trade their commodities," he said.
"We think that there's mutual benefit from trade with China, and we hope that there's going to be a deal (between China and the United States)," he added.