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Posted on  

December 6, 2002

Ethanol may provide economic future to Pike

By Beth Coldwell

Local farmers and business leaders look to an ethanol plant to boost economy and job market.
A small group of agriculture leaders in Pike County hope to use some of the county's greatest assets and improve the economy by adding an ethanol plant.

Walker Filbert of Pittsfield has been instrumental in planning the Western Illinois Ethanol Project, an effort to build a $52 million ethanol manufacturing plant in one of three Pike County locations - Griggsville/Valley City, East Hannibal or Pleasant Hill. Others who have spearheaded the project include young farmers president Brenton Dean and Pittsfield agricultural consultant John Teuscher.

Ethanol is a type of alcohol made from renewable resources such as corn or other cereal grains. When blended with fuel, ethanol reduces carbon monoxide and volatile organic compound emissions. It is added to gasoline to raise the octane level. It accounts for about 1.5 percent of all gasoline in the U.S.

Tuesday evening, nearly 100 people attended an ethanol informational meeting at the Pike County Farm Bureau building.

"We want to see if there is enough interest among local producers for this type of venture," Filbert said. "From the excellent turnout here, I think it's obvious that we have the interest."

Filbert and other members of the WIEP want to build a plant that would produce 40 million gallons of ethanol a year. This would require 16 million bushels of corn annually.

"Pike County produces 26 million bushels of corn annually, so we have more than enough to make it work," Filbert said, adding that producers from surrounding counties would potentially contract corn to the plant.

In addition to corn, the plant requires energy and transportation routes. Filbert said either natural gas or coal would be needed for heat, and Pike County should have no problem providing enough natural gas. Rivers, railroads and interstates are preferable modes of transportation for products traveling to and from the plant, another advantage Filbert says Pike County can provide.

Jim Sneed, manager of fuel marketing from Williams Bio-Energy in Pekin, made a presentation at the meeting to share his knowledge and experience with ethanol plants. Williams Bio-Energy markets and distributes the finished product, and has contracts with 18 ethanol plants, including one in northwestern Illinois called Adkins Energy which Filbert said employs between 60 and 70 workers. He credits U.S. Representative Ray LaHood with putting WIEP officials in touch with Ron Miller, president of Williams Bio-Energy.

Sneed said although Williams Bio-Energy is not looking to build a plant in Pike County, the company may support such a venture in the future. Sneed explained that it only markets ethanol, not plant co-products which include corn meal, corn gluten feed, distillers dried grains and brewers yeast.

"I'm not trying to sell anything," Sneed said. "This is just a general kickoff meeting." Williams Bio-Energy has varying ownership in the 18 plants it has agreements with. Sneed said Williams owns between five and 20 percent of most of the plants.

Still, WIEP representatives are hopeful that the ethanol plant will soon become a reality. Filbert said the next step will be to find local investors for the plant.

"The economic impact of this thing would be huge," Filbert said.



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