Saving the ecology

The most expensive project supported by Kentucky’s tobacco-settlement money is changing that. The farmer-owned Commonwealth Agri-Energy ethanol plant in Hopkinsville started quietly last winter but will stage its grand opening today. It covered nearly $10million of its $32.8million cost with grants and loans from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board….

Commonwealth Agri-Energy plans to convert more than 7million bushels of corn into 20million gallons of ethanol a year. General manager Mick Henderson said half of the ethanol will go to Louisville, the only Kentucky city requiring gasoline mixed with an oxygenate additive. The rest is headed to markets such as New York and St. Louis, which also require reformulated gasoline.

The grant mentioned in the article was funded in large part by the EPA, particularly Bush’s Clear Skies initiative of 2003. Under Clear Skies, Louisville had to add additives to their gasoline. The Hopkinsville plant will be the supplier. They are also supplying St. Louis and New York due to the same regulations. There was an accompanying article that I can’t find now that this location has already secured a private customer that is going to add their ethanol to their gas in all of their gas stations, thereby compelling the plant to produce even more ( 40 million I think it was ).

This is great, but it’s not unusual right now. There are a lot of plants opening and under construction right now. Besides the obvious ecological benefits of cleaner burning gas, because of the sudden surge in gas prices, it makes economic sense. Kentucky used some of the tobacco settelement to develop a new crop base for farmers, corn. That’s a win-win situation for Kentucky. Other areas have similar reasons.

But, none of this would be happening if it were not for the huge lure of federal funding under Clear Skies. It needs a lot more credit than its being given. Reducing domestic usage by even 10% will have a massive impact on the politics of OPEC. They need to know we’re serious about reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Ethanol is the key to getting that message across NOW.