|By TIM ALEXANDER
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Ford announced the launch of a Midwest Ethanol Corridor last week, which would expand E85 ethanol fuel availability in Illinois and Missouri by about one-third in 2006.
In partnership with VeraSun Energy, a renewable-energy company from South Dakota, Ford plans to increase the availability of the corn-based fuel in neighboring states as well. The announcement drew immediate praise from Illinois’ governor and the president of the Illinois Corn Growers Assoc.
“With its commitment to ethanol and E85, Ford is showing the kind of renewable energy vision that Illinois and America need,” said Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. “With the Illinois Clean Energy Infrastructure Program, we have increased the number of E85 stations in Illinois from 14 to about 100. Ford’s commitment will help us continue to expand E85 infrastructure and make this cost-effective and clean fuel more widely available to consumers in Illinois.”
ICGA president John Kuhfuss, a farmer from Mackinaw, also commended the auto giant for taking an important step in expanding ethanol’s market.
“ICGA along with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board have invested significant funds and manpower to expand the market for ethanol and promote E85 technology. The positive actions by automotive giants like Ford and General Motors this week represent a major victory for corn growers and consumers,” Kuhfuss said in an ICGA press release.
The first phase in the corridor’s creation will be to convert existing gasoline fuel pumps in the two states to E85. VeraSun announced plans to begin offering E85 at 20 Gas City stations in the Chicago area alone.
“The two greatest challenges facing greater E85 use are access to convenient fueling locations and a lack of consumer awareness,” said Bill Honnef, VeraSun’s vice-president of sales and marketing. “Our partnership with Ford is to address those two issues.”
GM announced at the Chicago Auto Show last week that they will tie into the campaign by working closely with fuel merchants on educational outreach. Consumers can locate E85 pumps by visiting www.E85fuel.com, and GM OnStar customers will now be able to easily locate E85 pumps by contacting an OnStar advisor with access to updated locations.
Ford estimates there are 50,000 owners of the company’s flexible-fuel vehicles in Illinois and 28,000 in Missouri. Four new Ford models capable of running on E85 will bring the total number of flexible-fuel autos produced by the auto giant to 250,000 in 2006.
More information on GM’s new E85 campaign, Live Green, Go Yellow, can be accessed on the web at www.ilcorn.org/update/html/2-7-06.html