Five years ago, ethanol was seen as the next big thing to wean the U.S. off foreign oil. Then some studies on the corn-based fuel cast doubt on its environmental benefits, and auto companies turned their attention to hybrids and electric cars.
The hype died off, but the ethanol industry is alive and well, driving a big change in America’s corn consumption.
Rising up out of the corn fields outside Lake Odessa, Mich., is the ethanol refinery for Carbon Green Bioenergy. The company’s CEO, Mitch Miller, says a lot of refineries were popping up when this one was built in 2006.
“Five years ago, ethanol was a craze. It was the next best thing,” he says. Now, not so much. Refineries aren’t being built. Politicians aren’t stopping by with platoons of reporters.
Yet when the ethanol hype went away, the ethanol industry got bigger than ever.