The curtain rises on a new year that promises to hold some familiar challenges for the industry. Continued growth in production will bump into market constraints. Debates around the merits of current ethanol tax policy and what potential new policy should look like will carry over from 2010. And, efforts to encourage investment to commercialize cellulosic and advanced biofuels must expand.

But first, there is still some old business out there. Over the holiday recess, ethanol production numbers for the week ending 12/24/2010 were released. They are immediately below. Additionally, monthly ethanol production data through October also became available.

That information follows the weekly data.

For the week ending 12/24/2010, ethanol production was 913,000 barrels per day (b/d), or 38.345 million gallons daily. That is an increase from the 892,000 b/d a week earlier, but down from the high of 939,000 b/d set during the week of 12/3/2010. The 4-week average was 920,000 b/d -- that is an annualized rate of more than 14 billion gallons.

However, it should be noted that EIA says the unusually high weekly production numbers for the weeks ending 12/3/2010 and 12/10/2010 were due to an "error in the methodology for accounting for new infrastructure." The error, EIA says, led to overestimation of production by 3-4% for those two weeks.

Stocks of ethanol remained steady at 16.8 million barrels.

Gasoline demand ticked higher to 394.785 million gallons of daily demand. Expressed as a percentage of average daily gasoline demand, average daily ethanol production stood at 9.71%.

On the coproducts side, ethanol producers were using 13.843 million bushels of corn daily to produce fuel and 103,000 metric tons of livestock feed, 91,000 metric tons of which were distillers grains. Additionally, producers were supplying 3.95 million pounds of corn oil daily.

Turning to monthly data, October 2010 ethanol production stood at 884,000 b/d, up from 740,000 b/d in October 2009. Through October, American ethanol producers are averaging 851,000 b/d of production - an annualized rate of just over 13 billion gallons for 2010.

Average daily ethanol demand as calculated by the RFA was a record at 887,000 b/d. That is up from 866,000 in September. Through October, RFA calculated demand is averaging 850,000 b/d.

Stocks of ethanol in October stood at 17.295 million barrels, representing 19.5 days of supply.

Imports of ethanol in October were virtually non-existent at just 42,000 gallons. October exports of denatured and undenatured (non-beverage) ethanol totaled 34.9 million gallons, down 9.9% from September.