Locally grown corn used for ethanol helps environment, local growers


Currently all cars in the U.S. can run on a 10 percent ethanol/90 percent gasoline blend.

“We believe the [Environmental Protection Agency] will mandate a higher ethanol requirement,” said Richard Ruebe, CEO of Illinois River Energy in Rochelle.

All cars on the road today can handle 13 percent ethanol, and with additional testing Ruebe said he believes that all cars will be proven to be able to handle 20 percent.

The corn grown in DeKalb has many different uses. Fifty percent is used to feed livestock, 20 percent is used to make ethanol, 19 percent is exported and 11 percent is used for human food, said Mike Hardt, DeKalb County Farm Bureau assistant manager.

Ethanol, which is fuel distilled from grain, is an alternative energy source for consumers looking to battle high gas prices.

Ethanol has been around for many years, and the recent spike in oil prices has pushed it into the forefront, Hardt said.

Currently, DeKalb has one location where ethanol can be purchased: the Hintzsche – Pacific Pride Station, 880 Peace Road.

“Because ethanol uses corn, it benefits rural corn growers,” said Rodney Weinzierl, Illinois Corn Growers Association executive director.

Illinois is the nation’s second largest producer of corn and produces 40 percent of the country’s ethanol, according to the Illinois Corn Growers Association Web site.

Ethanol is produced by processing corn, taking the parts needed (in this case, the starch) and saving the remaining parts for other uses.

Scientists are currently studying switch grasses and other cereal grains that might be able to provide more efficient ethanol production, but corn remains the most economical, Hardt said.

Local ethanol producer Illinois River Energy LCC in Rochelle is expanding from a 50 million gallon facility to a 100 million gallon facility and expects its expansion to be complete by April 2009, according to the Illinois River Energy Web site.

“No matter what you read or what you hear, the studies we’ve done have indicated that ethanol is a cleaner, greener fuel,” Ruebe said.