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Ethanol industry fueled by veterans

One in five ethanol industry employees is a veteran, compared to national average of 6%.

A study released this week on employment in the U.S. energy sector shows that America’s ethanol industry employs a significantly larger share of military veterans than any other segment of the energy industry. Nearly one in five ethanol industry employees is a veteran (19%), compared to a national average of 6% across all sectors of the workforce, according to the "2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report" published by the National Association of State Energy Offices and Energy Futures Initiative.

Per 100 workers, the ethanol industry employs more than twice as many veterans as the petroleum, natural gas, nuclear, coal and wind energy sectors. Across all energy segments, veterans comprise 9% of the U.S. energy sector’s workforce, slightly above the national average.

“The results of this study come as no surprise to us,” said Renewable Fuels Assn. (RFA) president and chief executive officer Geoff Cooper, an Army veteran who attained the rank of captain. “The ethanol industry is a perfect fit for thousands of veterans across the country. After serving our country in uniform, we have chosen to work in the renewable fuels industry because it allows us to continue honoring a commitment to make America stronger and more independent. We take great pride in knowing we work in an industry that improves our nation’s energy security, economic vitality and environmental quality each and every day.”

With ethanol jobs currently at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic, oil price war and Environmental Protection Agency abuse of small refinery exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard, Cooper said the report serves as a timely reminder that the ethanol industry is a crucial employer of veterans.

“As a veteran with multiple combat deployments, I am proud to say I have found a home in the ethanol industry making a product that I truly believe in,” said Tony Leiding, director of operations at RFA member company Trenton Agri Products LLC. “I would prefer to invest in the energy resources of the Midwest, not the Middle East.” Leiding served eight years on active duty in the U.S. Army, primarily as a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot performing medical evacuation missions. Leiding, who attained the rank of captain, was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2017, Leiding and scores of other veterans working in the ethanol industry sent a letter to President Donald Trump, noting the important contributions the U.S. ethanol industry makes to domestic energy security and encouraging the President to include a prominent role for ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard in his energy agenda.

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