|By TIM ALEXANDER
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich came to the Mike Campbell farm in Edwardsville Aug. 22 to unveil an ambitious energy dependence plan designed to reduce the state’s reliance on foreign oil.
The plan, which includes meeting 50 percent of the state’s motor fuel needs with alternative homegrown sources made from crops by 2017, would make Illinois the first state to achieve such a level of energy independence. Blagojevich’s proposal calls for tripling the amount of ethanol production and investing more money in clean coal technology. The plan would create 30,000 new “downstate” jobs while saving consumers “billions of dollars,” according to Blagojevich.
“No other state has the combination of natural resources that we have here in Illinois,” Blagojevich said. “We’re the nation’s leading producer of soybeans. We’re the number-two producer of corn. And we have the nation’s third largest reserves of coal… if we make the right investments now, within 10 years, we’ll be able to produce enough energy from our own natural resources to cut our dependence on foreign energy in half. No other state can say that. And the federal government hasn’t even conceived of that yet. But we can do it here in Illinois.”
Highlights of the Governor’s plan include:
•Investing in renewable biofuels by providing financial incentives for constructing up to 20 new ethanol plants and five new biodiesel plants. According to the plan, the construction of these additional plants would allow Illinois to replace 50 percent of its foreign oil needs with homegrown biofuels;
•Increasing the number of fuel stations that sell biofuels so that 100 percent offer E-85, an ethanol blend, by 2017;
•Investing $775 million to help build up to 10 new coal gasification plants that use Illinois coal, which would meet 25 percent of the state’s diesel fuel needs, 25 percent of natural gas needs and 10 percent of electricity needs, by 2017;
•The construction of a pipeline to move carbon dioxide captured from coal gasification plants to oil fields in southern Illinois;
•Meeting 10 percent of Illinois’ electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2015, and finding ways to cut emissions and reduce motor fuel consumption by 10 percent.
Blagojevich described the U.S. as being held hostage to the whims of OPEC, complex political situations and unstable leadership in oil-producing countries. He said consumers are “patronized and ignored” by “our leaders in Washington,” and extorted by Middle East oil barons.
“This plan is different from anything we’ve ever done before. It’s different from anything any other state has tried before. But these aren’t normal times,” Blagojevich said. “As countries like China and India continue to develop, the demand for oil and gas is only going to grow. The supply will only decline. As a nation, we represent only 4 percent of the world’s population. But we consume 25 percent of its annual energy use. Staying the course is not an option.”
Blagojevich’s plan was greeted with skepticism by Republican gubernatorial challenger Judy Baar Topin-ka, currently the state’s treasurer. She questioned how the debt-ridden state would fund the Governor’s plan.
Blagojevich and Topinka appeared separately at the annual Illinois Ag Legislative Roundtable, held at a farm near Bloomington on Aug. 30. Blagojevich told those attending that significant progress in promoting alternative fuels has been made during his tenure.
Topinka, however, criticized the governor for being silent on agricultural issues the past four years and for allowing other Midwestern states to surpass Illinois’ ethanol leadership.
Topinka also stated that, if elected, she would work to make Illinois the “clean energy capital” and would “professionalize” the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
This farm news was published in the Sept. 6, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.