Recent news that barges carrying U.S. ethanol were bound for China brought a new sense of optimism to the embattled renewable fuels business. The confirmation of the recent purchase of up to 28 million gallons was a “shot in the arm” to the sector that was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and represents not just recovery, but new market opportunity. But China’s behavior on the export market is a call for caution; the nation’s importers often “test out the waters” with buying some ag products on the world market as they assess their ability to meet all regulatory requirements and ensure it arrives at port at the right time to integrate it into the nation’s fuel complex. One respected economist said the shipment is a test case; if it goes well, it could open the door to more ethanol export sales, whereas if it gets bogged down in red tape, it may be short-lived. China committed to buying 200 million gallons of ethanol in the first six months of the year from a large U.S. company earlier this year, which if realized would be a new annual sales record. See more on the ethanol export optimism.