It's true that I didn't hesitate to denigrate corn ethanol in the fall. I believe that was the right call. But more recently, I've argued that the demise of producers like VeraSun Energy
If you back out the large impairment charge, Pacific Ethanol actually turned a profit in the first quarter. Gross margin came in at nearly 10%, better than VeraSun and roughly doubling the gross margin of Aventine Renewable Energy
It's no simple task to compare the performance of these ethanol players. Each company calculates its cost metrics in slightly different ways. Pacific Ethanol's reported commodity margin excludes the cost of energy inputs (i.e., natural gas), whereas VeraSun's "total crush margin" includes natural gas. Just make sure you're comparing apples to apples, or corn to corn, when you're contrasting these competitors.
Though they're not dead, I find it tough to get too worked up about this crop of ethanol producers. They're even more boxed in by input limitations than companies that refine oil, like Valero Energy
Pacific Ethanol is rated a measly one star in Motley Fool CAPS. Think it has finally turned the corner? Weigh in right here.
For related Foolishness:
- This ethanol player's got another arrow in its quiver.
- I spoke too soon -- there's now plenty of gushing over this Chinese biofuels baron.
- Here's another intriguing biodiesel bet.