|By NANCY VORIS
OMAHA, Neb. — With 95 ethanol plants in operation in the United States and 30 more under construction, ethanol production continues to increase by a billion gallons each year.
Ethanol plants have spread beyond the Corn Belt and are sprouting from Florida to California, from Texas to Canada.
Plant-based fuels are not new; Henry Ford designed his 1908 Model T to operate on alcohol and said ethanol would be the fuel of the future.
But bringing America full circle and away from its love affair with gasoline is an uphill battle.
“Ethanol has been back several years now,” said Tom Slunecka, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC). “It’s time to get traction.
“We’ve got enough (corn) supply now to make a real presence in the marketplace. Quantity and quality are readily available.”
Grain farmers are producing more with fewer inputs, he said, and are rewarded through the demand for ethanol. “Without ethanol, corn prices would be lower than they are now,” Slunecka said.
Ethanol plants are attracting investors in what some have called a “dot.com atmosphere.” Slunecka hopes these new types of investors see the value of working together for the good of all.
“Just like farmers came together for checkoffs, so, too, the ethanol plant investors need to come together to work,” he said.
EPIC is a nonprofit organization formed a year ago by ethanol producers and industry leaders.
Slunecka hopes EPIC will be as successful with consumer awareness and promotion as the Renewable Fuels Assoc. has been in the political arena.
Sponsorship of Team Ethanol in the Indy Racing League, set to use a 10 percent ethanol blend in 2006 and 100 percent ethanol in 2007, will shine a light on the renewable fuel’s performance abilities and increase consumer awareness.
But closer to home, Slunecka said that consumers must speak up and ask local gasoline retailers to offer ethanol in a 10 percent blend or E-85 with 85 percent ethanol, if they do not already do so.
“Retailers will react to what consumers ask for,” he said. “The average consumer needs to say, ‘No, I want ethanol in the mix.’”
To learn more about ethanol and if consumers can burn ethanol in their vehicles, visit www.drivingethanol.org
Ethanol fast facts
•Auto manufacturers approve, and even recommend, fuel enriched with up to 10 per ethanol for all cars produced since 1980.
•Ethanol is the highest-performance fuel on the market, with an octane rating of 113.
•Fuel enriched with 10 percent ethanol burns cleaner, leaving no gummy deposits in the fuel system so engines can run with optimal performance.
•Ethanol-enriched fuels account for approximately 30 percent of all fuel sold in the U.S.
•Ethanol is made from crops grown in America, primarily corn and milo.
•Ethanol replaces gasoline that would require the use of 600,000 barrels of oil a day.
•Last year, the U.S. produced more than 4.2 billion gallons of ethanol.
•Ethanol plants have an economic impact of more than $75 million over 10 years in the communities where the plants are located, and an average of 43 paying jobs.
This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.