On January 27 in Altoona the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association held its ninth annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit.
One purpose of the summit is to look at the year ahead. For 2015, that means both optimism and uncertainty.
That's according to Iowa RFA Policy Director Grant Menke.
For example, Saudi Arabia has increased its oil output in an attempt to regain some market share from the United States, where North Dakota's oil output has boomed in the last several years.
The result is that crude oil prices are now below $50 per barrel, which isn't the best news for higher ethanol blends, like E-85.
At lower blends, like E-10 and E-15, Menke says ethanol's role is to simply improve a fuel's octane rating, which means even with low oil prices, ethanol remains the cheapest source of octane.
But Menke adds that the biofuels industry has other unanswered questions moving forward, "Is there going to be an RFS, isn't there going to be an RFS? Is there going to be a Federal blenders tax credit, or isn't there going to be a federal blenders tax credit? So all those issues are up in the air right now. And that's just making it a very difficult business environment. Particularly in an industry that is competing against a behemoth in the petroleum industry."