From: Steve Tarter, Journal Star
Published March 8, 2005 12:00 AM

Ethanol to Fuel Racecars

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Every day sees a new breakthrough for ethanol.


The latest gain for the alternative fuel is the announcement that ethanol will be used at the Indianapolis 500 for the first time next year, said Mark Lambert, spokesman for the Bloomington-based Illinois Corn Growers Association.


"The racing industry is getting pounded on environmental issues. If you've ever been to the race, those methanol fumes can knock you out of your seat," Lambert said.


Next year Indy officials will use a 10 percent blend of ethanol but in 2007, racers will run on 100 percent ethanol, he said.


"It's the first conversion in fuel by racing officials in four decades," he said.


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Such victories are becoming routine for ethanol proponents in Illinois, where 775 million gallons of ethanol, valued at over $1.2 billion, was produced last year. Illinois is the second-leading producer of ethanol in the nation behind Iowa.


While making ethanol the official fuel of the Indianapolis 500 is a nice PR touch, the industry is hard-pressed to meet demand for the corn-based additive as it replaces MBTE, which has polluting problems, in gasoline around the country.


"We're just entering the Atlanta market while making further inroads on the East Coast. They need a lot of ethanol," said Lambert.


One of six rows of corn grown in Illinois now goes towards ethanol, according to the association that credits the ethanol industry for adding about 10 cents to the value of an average bushel of corn.


"Farmers see (ethanol) as a major value-added product," said Adam Nielsen, spokesman for the Illinois Farm Bureau in Bloomington.


Ethanol production is booming with 81 plants operating around the country and another 16 under construction, Lambert said.


Ethanol's success has also brought forth criticism. "You have to give the ethanol guys credit. They've had quite a run with a myth," said David Sykuta, executive director of the Illinois Petroleum Council in Springfield.


The myth is that ethanol will save the family farm, he said. "The product works but it hasn't done much to raise corn prices. Environmentally, it's not the home run that people say. I'd call it more of a bunt," he said.


"For some kinds of pollution, ethanol is a clear benefit but for conditions like ozone, it makes it worse," Sykuta added.


Illinois still produces more oil in the state than it does ethanol, said Sykuta, referring to oil fields in the southeastern part of the state.


Ethanol is needed but so are other alternatives, he said. "The fact is we need more energy. Figure that we use 7 billion gallons of ethanol a year. That's enough to make 70 billion gallons of E10 (gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol). But we use over 140 billion gallons of gas in this country annually," he said.


"My issue is with the political leadership that says we can use ethanol to solve all our energy problems. You can't say that unless you plan on walking a lot," he said.


Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News


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