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Indianapolis 500 celebrates Ethanol Day
By DAVE BLOWER Jr.
Farm World Editor

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman took a high-speed tour of the 2 1/2-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week as track officials celebrated Ethanol Day.

Bodman rode in the backseat of a two-seat Indy race car which was powered by ethanol. Cars competing in this year’s Indianapolis 500 mile race will fill up with a 10 percent blend of ethanol, plus 90 percent methanol. All cars in the 2007 race will race on 100 percent ethanol.

“The reason that the (Indy) 500 commands worldwide attention every year is the high level of competition that it provides and the technical theatre, which over time have led to changes in consumer products and consumer cars,” Bodman said.

“Ethanol might be one of those products. We are hopeful that 30, 40, 50 years from now - when we have the majority of our motor fuel coming from ethanol - that we will look back on it and say, ‘you know, it’s really the commitment by the Speedway and by the people here to set an example for the rest of the country.’”

He believes the political conditions are ripe for ethanol to make gains in the coming energy bill debate. “President Bush, is a very strong believer in ethanol,” Bodman said.

“I know that the senators and the congressman from (Indiana) and this general region are very enthused about it. The governors are very enthused about it. So we are doing - from a political standpoint - what we can to help. The President talks about (ethanol) all the time, and it’s very front and center.”

Congress is considering a measure that would remove tariffs from ethanol imported into the country. Some believe that eliminating the tariffs would increase the level of ethanol marketed in the United States and help reduce fuel prices.

Bodman said he could not guess if Congress would cut tariffs on imported ethanol.

“The way I see it, this is really something that the members of Congress will have to opine on,” he said. “The President said he wants to hear from Congress, hear what they have to say.

“Many Congressmen, at least the ones that I know from this part of the world, really are not very supportive of removing the support levels for ethanol, and really don’t want to lower the tariffs for fear that it’s a fledgling industry, and from their standpoint it would do damage to the industry and limit growth.

“So, on the one hand we’d like to have the rapid growth. On the other hand, eventually, the support that is now provided today - and that’s why people are so heavily into it and expanding so rapidly - will have to terminate and will have to be supported by the free market.”

Production levels continue to be ethanol’s biggest challenge, he said.

He said President Bush has the goal that America will produce 5 million barrels of ethanol per day by 2025. He said, globally, 80 million barrels of oil per day is used; and Americans exhaust 20 million of those barrels.

“A lot of that oil, by the way, doesn’t go into motor fuels; maybe half or 60 percent does, but it’s the largest use,” Bodman said. “So 5 million barrels a day would be about a half or a third to a half of the motor fuel that would be used at that time. It would be a big change, but that’s going to take a long time. It just takes time to physically build enough equipment to manufacture 5 million barrels a day of anything.”

There is room for optimism, though, Bodman said. U.S. ethanol production is increasing at a rate of 30-40 percent per year.

“It’s about 6.5 million gallons, that’s what we make. That’s the good news,” he said. “The bad news is we use 140 billion gallons every year in this country. So we’re going to need to have more. We expect it to increase.”

This farm news was published in the May 17, 2006 issue of Farm World.

5/17/2006