Ethanol Industry Could See $10 Billion in Losses Due to COVID-19

first_img As the COVID-19 pandemic and crude oil glut continue to ravage world fuel markets, U.S. ethanol sales in 2020 could fall by more than $10 billion and the industry’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) could drop by nearly one-third, according to a new analysis released today by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The economic losses stem from a “pernicious combination of steep production cuts and sharply lower prices” in response to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and the resulting collapse in fuel consumption, according to the report.RFA warned that these economic damages go far beyond the ethanol sector. America’s farmers will also be negatively impacted, as ethanol typically provides a market for two out of every five rows of corn and more than one-third of the annual sorghum crop. Meanwhile, the industry normally supports 350,000 jobs across all sectors of the economy, and contributes valuable co-products like distillers grains, corn distillers oil, and captured carbon dioxide to the food supply chain.Building on the results from a recent Purdue University study, the RFA analysis estimates that ethanol production could fall by approximately 3 billion gallons in 2020, representing a nearly 20 percent cut from levels that would have otherwise been expected. Mainly due to lower usage and high inventories, ethanol prices could be 56 cents per gallon lower on average from March to December than they otherwise would have been; as a result, ethanol sales fall to $12.5 billion in 2020, a 46 percent reduction from the $23 billion that would have been expected absent COVID-19.“This sobering new analysis underscores the magnitude of the economic devastation being suffered in the ethanol industry,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “Roughly half of the ethanol industry is shut down today, as fuel demand has collapsed in response to COVID-19, and it is clear we have a long and bumpy road to recovery ahead of us. Corn demand and prices have plummeted as plants have idled, jobs are being lost, and rural communities are being destabilized. On the heels of last week’s agriculture relief package that excluded any assistance for ethanol, we urge the administration and Congress to take immediate action to help the renewable fuels sector survive. We simply cannot afford to lose an industry that has become part of the fabric of rural America.”In its annual economic impact analysis for 2019, ABF Economics found that the ethanol industry contributed $43 billion to U.S. GDP and supported nearly 350,000 jobs in 2019. But based on today’s RFA analysis, it is expected that the industry’s contribution to GDP could shrink to $30 billion in 2020, nearly one-third less than last year. Further, if the scenario in the RFA analysis plays out, the industry would support nearly 280,000 jobs across all sectors in 2020, a reduction of about one-fifth from 2019.Click here for the report: The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on the Ethanol IndustrySource: RFA press release Home Indiana Agriculture News Ethanol Industry Could See $10 Billion in Losses Due to COVID-19 Facebook Twitter By Hoosier Ag Today – Apr 20, 2020 SHARE Ethanol Industry Could See $10 Billion in Losses Due to COVID-19 Facebook Twitter SHARE Previous articleIndiana Farm Bureau AgELECT PAC Endorses 11 Primary CandidatesNext articleIndiana Pork Makes Donation to Indy’s Wheeler Mission Shelter Hoosier Ag Todaylast_img read more

New Theory for Introns: Mutation Sponges

first_imgWhen you don’t know where damage will occur, it makes sense to spread the assets around.  Scientists from City of Hope Medical Center (a cancer care and research institute) have a new idea about introns, those regions of DNA “junk“ between the more interesting exons (parts of genes).  Perhaps the introns are mutation sponges.    Writing in PNAS,1 nine scientists provided evidence that mutations occasionally come in showers.  When a bad translation machine comes along, for instance, it could inflict a lot of damage in a small region.  By spreading the genetic material apart with introns, most of the damage will be absorbed by the non-coding DNA.  Here’s how they expressed it:The observed mutation showers often will affect one or a few genes in mammalian genomes, because they tend to diminish within 30 kb.  Therefore, most mammalian genes range from 20 kb to 1 Mb with 90+% of the sequence within introns.  Approximately 90% of the mutations within a mutation shower generally would not have functional consequences.  Thus, the introns serve as a “sponge” to absorb many of the mutation showers without damage to protein function.They also suggested that a mutation shower in the wrong place might produce “cancer in an instant.”  They asked,Might there be scattered mutation showers throughout the genome that occur, perhaps by nucleotide pool imbalances during replication or another cellular metabolic process?  This is a critical unanswered question.  If scattered mutation showers occur, multiple genes could be inactivated, leading to cancer in an instant.They said this might explain why many tumors have high averages of mutations.1Wang, Gonzalez, Scaringe, Tsai, Liu, Gu, Li, Hill and Sommer, “Evidence for mutation showers,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0610902104, published online before print May 7, 2007.No one knows if this is “the reason” for introns, but it shows that there are creative ways to discover a function for something that otherwise looks meaningless.  What a novel concept: sponges in the genome to absorb mutations.  If introns are more likely to take the hits, then the sponges can be cut out after the translation by the spliceosome, and 90% of the errors can be thrown away.  This way, it is more likely the exons will link up without loss of function.  Post-translational proofreading can then provide additional protection against the remaining 10%.  It sounds like an intelligently planned strategy the military or an IT company would use.  Perhaps other functions for introns will come to light if scientists approach them from a design perspective.    The paper, however, was categorized under the topic of evolution.  The authors said the existence of mutation showers has “implications… for evolution.”  But they did not provide any evidence that mutation showers could advance evolution in any way, shape or form.  Mutation showers cannot be sources of evolutionary innovation.  On the contrary, they are threats to be mitigated.  Risk management requires a strategy appropriate to the threat.  Like Kansas towns in tornado alley, it’s best if they are kept small and separated by large tracts of vacant land.  Such a strategy does not eliminate the threat; it just limits the exposure.    Yes, this has implications for evolution, but evolutionary progress has nothing to do with it.  This is disaster preparedness, not innovation.  It wouldn’t make any sense to expect to find new functioning towns in the debris of a passing F5 twister – or Boeing 747s, either.  Just ask the folks in Greensburg, Kansas.(Visited 79 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Skills, innovation part of South Africa’s story

first_imgSouth Africa’s story at the World Economic Forum Davos this year will be of the huge strides the country is making in skills development and innovation. (Image: Brand South Africa) • Rising to the challenge of Africa’s urban future • Archive: Nelson Mandela at Davos • Four key issues on the agenda for WEF Davos 2015 • South Africa to showcase its success at Davos • South Africa’s education system critical to competitivenessShamin ChibbaBrand South Africa’s delegates to World Economic Forum Davos are taking with them a story that could attract foreign investment to our shores, a story that tells of a country that is bent on developing skills for its people and becoming one of the most technologically innovative among the world’s emerging economies.In the last few years, South Africa has taken great strides towards achieving what the National Development Plan set out: that by 2030 there should be close to full employment with the skills and culture of innovation needed to thrive.Most of these developments have taken place in the fields of mining and renewable energies, with space science catching up thanks to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Skills developmentIn his 2014 budget speech, the then finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, said he had allocated billions of rand towards programmes aimed at ending poverty, joblessness and inequality. One of those programmes involved ramping up skills development and further education and training.The government took a step towards achieving full employment when it launched the National Integrated Human Resource Development Plan in March 2014. Its goal is increasing the country’s skills base. According to Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande, the plan is designed to increase youth employment by matching education with the demands of the labour market.A number of tech hubs have also sprung up in Johannesburg and Cape Town that boost skills development, drive innovation and create new digital technology. These include JoziHub and Wits University’s Tshimologong Precinct in Johannesburg, and 88mph in Cape Town. Renewable energy The Jeffrey’s Bay Wind Farm takes advantage of the vast amount of wind energy the Eastern Cape produces. (Image: Shamin Chibba) With energy challenges front of mind, South Africa is bumping up its renewable energy sector. In August 2014, construction of the country’s first concentrated solar power tower was completed, and will bring with it a 50MW capacity that can light up almost 4 000 homes.The 140ha plant known as Khi Solar One, outside Upington in Northern Cape, is a project of Spanish company Abengoa Solar. Just as impressive is that it will reduce South Africa’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 138 000 tons a year. Construction of Africa’s first concentrated solar power tower was completed in August last year outside Upington, Northern Cape. (Image: Shamin Chibba) Its sister project in Pofadder, KaXu Solar One, utilises a parabolic trough to generate 100MW of power, saving 315 000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Other notable projects include the Kakamas Hydro Electric Power facility on the Orange River in the Northern Cape and the numerous wind farms that stretch from the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape. Mining The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is designing a robot that can inspect mines for any dangers, therefore preventing serious injury or even death for mineworkers. (Image: Shamin Chibba) Robotic engineers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) are working on a robot that can save the lives of miners.Safety in mines is a concern in South Africa, which has vast mineral resources, and robots present the perfect solution, according to the senior researcher at the agency’s Mobile Intelligence Autonomous Systems (Mias), Natasha Govender. “When they blast in a mine, people can’t go inside until the air settles. So once it is cleared out, then somebody can go [in]. But they have to check if the hanging walls are safe. At the moment that process is done manually, and that can be very dangerous if the rocks are loose.”The Mias team has built a robot that can go into the mine after blasting and do these checks, thus cutting the very real risks for mine workers. Govender says Mias has relied on government funding since it started in 2009, receiving R15-million a year.In 2014, the CSIR was instrumental in another project that enhances communication in mines. It produced the AziSA system, which allows for timely communication underground. This provides support for decision-making in the often dangerous conditions, and reduces reliance on sometimes low-skilled workers.In April of the same year, a National Research Foundation centre of excellence was opened to give fresh direction to South Africa’s minerals and mining industry by guiding policy decisions, bringing more black people into high-level mining jobs, and ensuring smarter exploitation of the country’s cornucopia of underground resources. Space science The Square Kilometre Array is one of South Africa’s most ambitious projects. Shared with Australia, the project will study the stars for any activity that takes place. (Image: SKA Africa ) Most developments in space science in the country at present are centred on SKA, which is being built in the Karoo. SKA is a series of radio telescopes that will survey the sky for any activity. However, a lesser known project by the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) is also sending ripples through the world of space science. The space weather centre in Hermanus is a research programme Sansa set up to look at space weather in Africa.The agency explains that solar superstorms can seriously disrupt mobile phones, GPS systems, power grids, satellites, avionics and high-frequency radio communication, and pose huge risks to the world’s economy and society. Its space weather centre will be able to forecast these storms and help the nation avoid the risks they bring. Changing our mind-setSouth Africa may be on the right track when it comes to skills development and innovation but at least one observer thinks that the country lacks the mind-set needed to develop human capital. Chairman of Democracy Works Foundation William Gumede said in an op-ed for the Sunday Independent newspaper that a shift in our collective mind-set was needed if we were to attain real economic freedom.“Another shift in mind-set that is needed is to recognise that developing human capital – through genuinely and determinedly giving all citizens the best-quality education and training – is not only the greatest economic empowerment policy, but the greatest long-time economic growth accelerator and will give previously disadvantaged individuals real freedom to secure a better life.”South Africa had a large number of unemployed people who were unskilled, he added, urging the government and business to think practically when looking for solutions. In one scenario, he sought a pragmatic solution pertaining to both skills development and innovation.“The country has an energy crisis, but has an abundance of sunshine and wind. Pragmatism would determine that it would be better to develop new energy sectors, using solar, polar or wind energy, which are not only readily and cheaply available, but can soak up many of the unskilled.”According to research by Deloitte and Manufacturing Circle, South Africa does not consider talent-driven innovation as much of a competitiveness driver as the rest of the world does. And this, said the head of the Economic Development Facilitation unit in the city of Johannesburg, Tsholo Mogotsi, would keep South Africa behind the pack.Mogotsi expressed his concerns at a Brand South Africa seminar on international perceptions of South Africa held in April 2014. “Is this because there is something really special about manufacturing in South Africa that is different to what’s happening in the global environment? I think we’re missing something about innovation,” he pointed out.Support Team SA at Davos on social media by using the hashtag #SAinDavos.last_img read more