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Japan opens up to US ethanol imports

The biofuels industry applauded Japan’s decision to open up imports of corn-based ethanol from the US and expects demand from new market to reach almost 100 million gallons.

The Japanese government has increased the mandated emission savings required of ethanol from 50% to 55% compared to gasoline. The policy also recognises US ethanol as a method for meeting this target.

Previously, Japan’s fuel policy only allowed sugarcane-based ethanol to be imported for the production of ETBE (an oxygenate used for transport fuel).

Ethanol imported from to the US will be allowed to meet up to 44% of Japanese demand, which the trade association Growth Energy estimates could mean up to 95.5 million gallons (434 million litres) every year.

Tom Sleight, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Grains Council, said in a statement: “From this decision, it is unequivocal that continued improvements in carbon intensity reductions are critical to gain and maintain market access for U.S. ethanol.”

A December 2017 report from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service says that this policy change has been in the works since 2016. According to the agency, Japan’s Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry made the decision to allow imports of American ethanol in order to diversify supply, contributing to energy security and the cost of sourcing ethanol.