Saturday, June 01, 2002

Ethanol production urged


Emissions safeguards could be part of Ohio plant designs

By John Seewer
The Associated Press

        TOLEDO — The federal government's crackdown on pollutants at ethanol factories shouldn't stop corn growers who want to open ethanol plants in Ohio, supporters say.

        They say plants that convert corn into the gasoline additive ethanol now can be built with safeguards that would reduce the toxic air pollutants found at older factories. They say the anti-pollution devices won't be too costly.

        “If we build a plant, we can fix it before we start,” said Mike Wagner, director of the Ohio Corn Growers Association. “We can take care of the problem.”

        The Environmental Protection Agency has found that many plants are releasing carbon monoxide, methanol and some carcinogens at levels many times greater than they promised.

        EPA officials will meet with ethanol makers on Monday in Chicago to discuss how to reduce the emissions.

        Ethanol burns cleaner than other fuels and reduces the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

        There are 61 ethanol plants nationwide, most in the Midwest, and another 14 under construction. Ohio is the country's second-largest ethanol user and seventh-biggest corn producer, yet it has no ethanol production. There are at least five proposals to bring the plants to Ohio.

        Gov. Bob Taft in March signed a bill that created tax breaks and makes loans available for those building the plants.

        Most Ohio environmental groups backed the measure. The Ohio Sierra Club stayed neutral on the bill, but concern about higher emissions could make the group lean toward opposing new plants, said spokesman Marc Conte.

        A plant that produces 40 million gallons each year would cost about $50 million to build, according to Mr. Wagner. Making changes to control emissions would add another $1 million to the price tag, he said.

        “The industry is sitting down with EPA to work it out,” Mr. Wagner said.

        “We want to be part of the solution.”

        The fumes are produced when fermented corn mash is dried for sale as a supplement for livestock feed. Devices known as thermal oxidizers can be attached to the plants to burn off the dangerous gases.

        The commissioners are discussing the possibility of locating an ethanol plant in Preble county.

        Gene Krebs, president of the Preble County commissioners, said the plant should be owned by a private ethanol-producing company or farmer-owned cooperative.

        “Any plant built here would be built with the latest technology,” he said. “And also meet new stringent EPA standards.”

       



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