The U.S. ethanol industry produced a record amount of fuel ethanol in 2007, according to year-end data released recently by the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) – 32% more ethanol than in 2006. And capacity for ethanol production is expected to grow another 4 billion gallons in 2008, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) hailed this as great news for U.S. corn growers, who are always looking for stability and expansion in markets for the corn they produce.

“We’re excited to see such growth in the production of ethanol and to see the expansion of the industry’s overall production capacity,” says Steve Ruh, chairman of NCGA’s ethanol committee and a grower from Sugar Grove, IL. “There are so many benefits to producing and using corn ethanol, whether it is greenhouse gas reduction, energy security or important coproducts such as distillers grains. Our growers are committed to working with the ethanol industry in promoting these benefits and providing valuable goods to the nation’s consumers.”

In its December monthly oxygenate report released March 3, the EIA reported that U.S. ethanol production averaged 423,000 barrels/day, for a total of 6.48 billion gallons for the year. This is an increase of 108,000 barrels/day over 2006. Further, according to the EIA, ethanol demand averaged 446,000 barrels/day in 2007, or 6.84 billion gallons of demand for the year. That is an increase of more than 1.5 billion gallons over 2006 demand.

Looking ahead in the near future, the organization sees room for increased production to meet the requirements of an expanded renewable fuels standard. Current ethanol plant capacity is 7.884 billion gallons, with another 5.536 billion gallons of capacity under construction. The completion of these projects would bring ethanol production capacity to nearly 13.5 billion gallons.