This month, we spotlight U.S. Energy Services, a leading energy management services provider for ethanol producers in the country. Read our interview with Casey Whelan, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at U.S. Energy, below.
Q. Please tell us about U.S. Energy Services.
A. U.S. Energy Services is a premier energy management company, positioned as a leading expert in analyzing, procuring and managing the energy requirements for large end users. U.S. Energy’s mission is to be our clients’ long-term, preferred energy manager by providing best-in-class energy related services to commercial, industrial, and institutional clients. We create competition between energy suppliers to ensure that our clients pay the lowest possible price. Managing the energy needs of over 3,500 North America sites, our customer list includes half of all the ethanol plants in the United States. U.S. Energy is differentiated by providing unique and specialized services not often offered by competitive energy management companies, such as:
Risk management integrated with physical procurement
Consulting and site development services
Natural Gas and electric portfolio management
LNG, CNG, Ethanol and Biogas services
Q. Please tell us about your company's role within the ethanol industry and why the company is committed to supporting the ethanol industry now and in the future?
U.S. Energy has participated in the ethanol and biodiesel space for two decades. We entered the industry in the mid 1990’s working with Heartland Corn, who utilized dry mill technology, and Minnesota Corn Processors, who is a wet mill producer. Since that time, we have worked with more than 100 ethanol plants helping them design and develop energy infrastructure such as natural gas pipelines.
We provide on-going energy management services, mostly in the areas of natural gas and electricity, such as competitive procurement, price risk management, data management, tariff reviews, and infrastructure consulting. We are a committed partner in helping the industry thrive.
Q. From your perspective, what would you like consumers to know about the ethanol industry and the fuel it produces?
A. The ethanol industry produces product which the U.S. needs not only from an energy perspective, but also from an economic perspective. Over the last twenty years, we have visited scores of rural locations where owners have invested in building ethanol plants. These plants have provided significant economic enhancements to the local community.
The ethanol producer’s increased demand for raw product flows directly back to the neighboring residents in the form of higher pricing and more liquid markets for local farmers, lower unemployment and higher labor rates for non-farmers, as well as new restaurants, grocery stores, and other residual businesses surrounding plant activities. Beyond the local community, the benefits of domestically produced ethanol include environmental advantages as well as a reduced dependence on foreign oil.
Q. What do you think is needed for E15 availability to grow?
A. Two important factors are at play in regard to growing E15 usage. First, the EPA must approve all vehicles to utilize E15. This action offers both environmental benefits as well as economic growth for the ethanol industry by providing additional incentive for fuel dealers to provide E15 at the pump. Second, automobile manufacturers must warrant the use of E15 in all vehicles. The threat of a voided warranty de-incentivizes drivers to use E15, and without this component in place, E15 will never reach its full potential.
Q. What do see as the ethanol industry's biggest challenge?
A. The biggest challenge for the industry is continued access to the market. The ethanol industry is trying to push their product into a competitive space occupied by major oil interests. Without federal legislation regarding the use of ethanol in our vehicles, we will limit access to the marketplace leaving environmental and economic barriers in place. If E15 mandates are put in place at a federal level, the Minnesota state legislature would fall in line. Public opinion weighs in as well – negative E15 press in the past has influenced adoption on a broad scale.
Q. What does your company see for the future of ethanol and advanced biofuels?
A. Ethanol is a critical component to the current and future success of the farming industry. The trend lines for corn yield continue to increase – more and more product is available every year. Meanwhile, domestic harvests outweigh food consumption making the ethanol industries demand for corn vital to the United States’ agricultural industry. Every Btu of ethanol produced in the U.S is one less Btu of oil we import from overseas. There is a robust future ahead for the industry as it continues to develop, implement and commercialize advanced biofuels. Progress, however, will be slow.