EU deals blow to US ethanol export hopes with 15-month dumping extension

US corn ethanol producers have been dealt a blow in the latest twist to the EU’s ongoing action against US ethanol imports, as the bloc announced an extension to the anti-dumping measures to cover a 15-month review.

The measures, which were introduced in 2013, were set to expire on February 23 after the European Commission signalled a review into the anti-dumping measures

The move comes in response to a request made by industry group ePURE in November 2017, based on concerns that the “expiry of the measures would be likely to result in the recurrence of dumping and recurrence of injury to the Union industry,” according to the EC’s official journal account.

The US has been increasingly focused on finding new export demand as its production swells and domestic demand has limited opportunity to bring dramatic expansion.

The European industry has been fighting a rearguard action, however, as in the interim the European Court of Justice annulled the 9.5% anti-dumping duty in 2016, before they were reinstated as the EU appealed against the decision.

“If only a fraction of [US] volumes were to be diverted to the EU market, it would severely damage the EU industry, putting at risk the 50,000 direct and indirect jobs linked to renewable ethanol production in Europe,” said Emmanuel Desplechin, Secretary General of ePURE.

US industry body, the Renewable Fuels Association, said it was "disappointed" by the news, with the RFA’s president Bob Dinneen accusing Europe of a "protectionist mindset" in an emailed statement to Agricensus.

A tale of two industries

For Europe, domestic ethanol production is divided across a number of EU nations and feedstocks, although the bulk comes from wheat-based production augmented by corn and sugar beet.

The bloc has typically been quick to shut down any potential leakage in its stance on US ethanol imports.

In 2014, the European industry reacted to a potential loophole where US ethanol was imported into Norway, blended to an E48 petrol standard, and then imported into Europe before the EU deemed that this to contravene the anti-dumping measures in place.

According to a report from Reuters, the US ethanol industry is also bracing for a meeting at the White House on February 27 as the Trump administration seeks to find common ground between the oil industry and the corn lobby. 

It is likely to be attended by Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and possibly Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Reuters cited other sources as saying that the meeting would consider whether to cap prices for biofuel credits, permit higher-ethanol blends to be sold all year, and consider whether to take measures against market speculators.