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Ethanol industry secures jobs for veterans, women

Getty/iStockphoto transferring ethanol from rail car to truck
Department of Energy study shows biofuels sector is making progress toward diversity, equity and inclusion.

A new study released by the Department of Energy demonstrates the importance of the biofuels industry as an employer. Biofuels, including ethanol, employed 34,592 workers in 2021, up 1,086 from 2020.

Of the total, the largest number of corn ethanol fuel jobs were in the agriculture industry – 15,818 workers. The next largest industries were manufacturing and wholesale trade.

The U.S. ethanol industry leads the nation in the share of its workforce that is comprised by military veterans, with one in every six employees previously serving in the armed forces.

Veterans make up 16% of the corn ethanol workforce. This represents a higher concentration of veterans than any other energy sector and a higher concentration than the 6% national average. Across all energy sectors, veterans account for 9% of the workforce.

“Today’s report from DOE confirms once again that the U.S. ethanol industry proudly leads the way in hiring military veterans,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper. Cooper is also an Army veteran. “The ethanol industry’s values and priorities align extremely well with those of our women and men in uniform, so it’s no surprise that one out of every six ethanol industry workers is a veteran. Military veterans know that they can continue to protect their fellow Americans and serve their country by producing a homegrown, cleaner, greener and more affordable renewable fuel.”

The DOE report shows the concentration of union workers in the ethanol industry is higher than the national average. Ethanol industry workers represented by a union or labor agreement make up 7% of the industry workforce, higher than the national workforce average of 6%.

The ethanol industry employs over 10,000 women, making up 30% of the corn ethanol workforce. While the proportion of women in the ethanol industry is well above the average in all energy sectors of 25%, the industry still lags behind the national workforce average of 47%.

Other data presented in the report underscores the progress being made toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion:

  • Workers with disabilities make up 4% of the ethanol industry workforce, double the average across all energy sectors.
  • The portion of the ethanol industry workforce made up of Hispanic or Latino workers has grown from 9% in 2018 to 12% in 2022, while the share comprised of Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander workers has doubled from 1% to 2%.
  • The shares of workers identifying as American Indian or Alaska Native (1%), Asian (6%), Black or African American (5%), and two or more races (5%) have held steady since 2018.
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