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Posted on  

January 18, 2002

Ohio Senate to vote on ethanol tax credit

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

The Ohio Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that supporters hope will lead to an ethanol production plant in the state after a seven-year absence.

Ohio is the largest corn-producing state in the country without an ethanol plant, and one of the nation's largest consumers of ethanol, a type of fuel additive produced from corn and other crops.

Ohio's last ethanol plant, a joint venture in South Point in southern Ohio between the Ohio Farm Bureau and Ashland Petroleum, shut down in 1995 because of efficiency problems and its distant location from corn-producing farms. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Larry Mumper, a Marion Republican, creates a $5,000 tax credit for each investor in an ethanol production plant.

"Ethanol is a renewable source of energy that makes us less dependent on foreign oil, it's very environmentally compatible and it enhances engine performance," Fred Dailey, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said Wednesday.

It's even safer to transport, he said. "You can take a tanker full of ethanol and crash it on the shores off of Alaska and all you'd get is some evaporation and some inebriated seals."

Dailey said the state offered $250 million in tax credits from 1983 through 1997 to create a market for ethanol in Ohio that other corn-producing states were able to take advantage of.

The state decided to push the ethanol bill as Congress moves to eliminate the gasoline additive MTBE and require greater use of renewable energy, including ethanol, Dailey said.

Ohio produced 485 million bushels of corn in 2000, behind Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota, according to the National Corn Growers Association.

The top five states have ethanol plants, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. Ohio is the second-largest ethanol consumer, said Monte Shaw, a Renewable Fuels Association spokesman.

"When you look at the amount of corn production and the amount of ethanol use, it's almost impossible to believe the right plant in the right place couldn't be successful in Ohio," he said.

Mark Schwiebert farms 800 acres, including 300 acres in corn, in Hamler in northwest Ohio, about 38 miles southwest of Toledo.

Schwiebert, 44, also is president of a group of 11 farmers investigating the possibility of building a $55 million ethanol plant in nearby Leipsic. The plant would use 12 million bushels of corn a year to produce as much as 40 million gallons of ethanol, Schwiebert said.

Ohio farmers would rather benefit from their own corn production than see it go to other states, he said.

"We're trying to add some value to the crop we're producing," Schwiebert said. "We'd like to continue farming and living in communities right here in Ohio."

Ohio environmental groups are backing the measure.

"Out here in farm country you'd be hard pressed to find even a rabid environmentalist opposed to ethanol," said David Reinbolt, executive director of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy. "Ethanol is a renewable fuel, and it takes advantage of grains that we grow."

Gov. Bob Taft strongly supports the bill. It goes next to the GOP-controlled House where Republicans are pushing a similar measure.


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