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Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA


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Posted on  

May 12, 2003

Malchine sees corn as seed of power for world

Farmer-politician is co-founder of Monroe fuel producer Badger State Ethanol

By JENNIE TUNKIEICZ
May 11, 2003

To John Malchine, a kernel of corn is the seed that, if carefully processed and properly used, could fuel the world.

So the 67-year-old Wind Lake farmer traded in his seed cap for a corporate hat, putting his time, energy and money into a new and risky venture.

Malchine is co-founder, chief executive officer and chairman of the board for Badger State Ethanol LLC, Monroe.

The plant opened Oct. 15 and is ahead of its anticipated production rate. It's averaging 46 million gallons of ethanol a year, created from 15 million bushels of corn.

Ethanol is a fuel additive that raises the oxygen content in gasoline, making it burn cleaner. "It's good for the environment, it's good for the farmer and it's good for America. These are all pluses," Malchine said.

Gov. Jim Doyle recently toured the plant and gave Malchine and co-founder Gary Kramer a producer's credit of about $1.6 million to help with start-up costs. Kramer is also president and plant general manager.

Malchine, who remains involved in Racine County and serves as a Town of Norway supervisor, became interested in the idea of ethanol decades ago as a grain farmer. In 1996, he and his sons invested in an ethanol plant in Lena, Ill.

Malchine was fascinated and successfully ran for the plant's board of directors. There he met Kramer, who was CEO and chairman of the board at the time.

Malchine and Kramer formed Badger State Ethanol in April 2000 with their own money. In May 2001, they began selling stock. By the end of August, they had raised a total of $22 million, $19 million of it in cash, and closed on a loan.

Badger State Ethanol is on a 28-acre site in Monroe, population 10,841. The plant has 36 employees, and the $56 million facility has room to expand.

"Fuel cells are the power of the future," Malchine said, and ethanol can be used in fuel cells.

Fuel cells produce electricity in an electrochemical process that involves mixing hydrogen and oxygen and passing it through a catalyst to combine. Fuel cell technology is being researched for use in cars, and there is the potential to use them to produce heat and electricity in buildings and homes.

Malchine recommends that the country turn to the American farmer rather than to fossil fuels. "We have to look at the potential in our country to be energy independent," Malchine said.

 

 

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