The United States and Brazil are kings of ethanol, the top royalty in an ever-growing world industry that leads the world in providing renewable fuel resources.

They lead an industry that is poised to produce 85.2 billion liters of the ethanol in 2012 worldwide, according to the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA). Global annual production has now surpassed 536 million barrels, and will be up by 1 billion liters.

The U.S. and Brazil account for over 80 percent of global ethanol production and, as such, are the drivers of world ethanol trade, according to Hart Energy's inaugural study exploring this industry in the U.S. and Brazil, Renewable Ethanol: Navigating the Rapids, 2011-2015.

Emerging and moving upward in ethanol production is Africa, where production is expected to grow 36 percent in 2012. And, despite the slowing of the Chinese economy, the GRFA predicts a 1 percent growth in ethanol output in 2012. Some African nations are net importers of crude oil, so the continued growth in ethanol production, no matter how small, will help stabilize African economies.

In Europe, ethanol production continues to grow. Europe saw its production rise by 4 percent in 2011. This year, its production is expected to double the growth rate of last year, or an 11 percent raise, said the GHRFA.

The GRFA notes that while the financial health of the world continues to occupy the attention of economists and policy makers, the global ethanol industry continues to be a bright spot, supporting about 1.4 million jobs and contributing $277.3 billion to the global economy in 2010, according to GRFA spokesperson, Bliss Baker.

Baker said, "The GRFA's 2012 production forecast sees global ethanol production continuing to displace the need for hundreds of millions of barrels of imported crude oil, further reducing our crippling reliance on foreign oil. Policy makers and governments must recognize the significant contribution biofuels are making to the global economy while reducing the world's foreign oil consumption."

So, steady growth is the watchword for ethanol as an industry, both at home and around the world. With the right formula of private investment and government "nudge," ethanol should remain the leader in renewable fuels going forward. Steady as she goes, boys.

I'll see ya!

'Dem bones, dem bones,

dem dry bones ...'

Producers in the Midwest this summer may not be groaning out the lyrics to "Dry Bones," but they will be lamenting tough, drought-like conditions facing their now lush crops during the growing season.

According to John Nielsen-Gammon, a Texas state climatologist, another year of drought, possibly even five to 10 years of drought lie ahead in the Southwest, and indications are that some of that drought is beginning to settle in over the Midwest, as well.

While several timely rains in the form of thunderstorms have moved through the Midwest helping thirsty dry-land crops, signs of drought are readily apparent and plenty of bottomland farmers are running their irrigation rigs.

Jeff Caldwell, writing on, said a "longer-term view of the weather conditions doesn't bode well for the most drought-stressed fields." As storms move west to east through most of the region recently, between a quarter inch and four inches of rain fell, but much of it fell in areas where it wasn't much needed, Caldwell said. A map from MDA EarthSat Weather, Inc., shows that the exception has been northwestern Iowa, parts of southern Minnesota and northern Michigan, where they've seen 25 to 75 percent of normal precipitation.

Caldwell quotes MDA EarthSat as saying the last week in June and first two weeks of July "will be critical in determining crop production, especially for corn as the yield-determining pollination phase begins."

So, producers will watch the skies carefully in the next several weeks to see whether rains will remain timely or pernicious drought will set in.