CHICAGO – Gov. Rod Blagojevich today commended the launch of the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) Ethanol futures contract - calling it a critical next step in continued efforts to meet the needs of a rapidly growing industry. Illinois Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke joined members of the Chicago Board of Trade on the floor this morning for the opening bell to welcome the addition. Also today, the Governor announced the recipients of the 2005 AgriFIRST grants – several grants going to projects designed to promote ethanol and biodiesel fuels.
“Ethanol is a viable commodity in Illinois and throughout the nation and demand will continue to grow now that ethanol is a part of the national energy formula,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “The introduction of ethanol today to the Chicago Board of Trade futures market is a crucial next step as we look to stabilize ethanol prices and provide a growing and reliable domestic market for Illinois farmers.”
Ethanol is a homegrown, renewable, corn-based fuel. Ethanol production and use creates jobs, increases farm income, improves air quality and reduces dependency on foreign oil. Currently, Illinois ethanol production makes up about 25 percent of the 3.7 billion gallons produced nationwide. Illinois is home to 5 ethanol plants in operation, with 2 more under construction and several additional plants planned throughout the state.
“Today’s announcement of a CBOT Ethanol futures contract is significant to Illinois for a number of reasons, including our position as the second largest corn producer in the nation,” Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. “The growth potential in ethanol production has already proved to be significant. As a nation, we’re approaching production levels of nearly 4 billion gallons, up 145 percent over production levels in 2000. This contract will help to manage price volatility and make ethanol a more viable commodity in the market.”
Also today, as part of Opportunity Returns, the Governor’s innovative, regional approach to creating jobs and spurring economic growth, Gov. Blagojevich announced several key grants to further promote ethanol and biodiesel fuel:
Northwest Region - Ethanol/Biodiesel Project 2005 AgriFIRST Recipients
· Henry Co. Ethanol Project Steering Committee/DBA Patriot Resources, $25,000: to be used for technical assistance associated with the development of a 50 million gallon per year ethanol facility in Henry County, which would be powered by either natural gas or coal. Estimates show the plant will use approximately 18 million bushels of corn or about 10 percent of the corn produced within a fifty-mile radius of Henry County.
· Northwest Illinois Agriculture Coalition, $13,000: to hire technical assistance to oversee continued membership development and daily operations as the Coalition pursues various value-added agricultural projects in the Coalition’s ten-county membership area. Examples of initiatives they are working on include an ethanol plant, livestock development, and an agritourism system.
North Central Region - Ethanol/Biodiesel Project 2005 AgriFIRST Recipient
· Illinois Corn Marketing Board/Illinois Corn Growers Association, $25,000: allows the Illinois Corn Growers to establish funds to help groups pursuing ethanol projects to access the computer model. It will also be used to create a step-by-step process for potential ethanol projects to pursue in an effort to obtain funding.
Southwest Region - Ethanol/Biodiesel Project 2005 AgriFIRST Recipients
· Southern Illinois University Edwardsville National Corn to Ethanol Research Center, $24,000: to conduct a feasibility study to determine the factors impacting the flowability of distillers’ dried grains with solubles (DDGS). DDGS is primarily used as a ruminant animal feed protein supplement. U.S. dry mill ethanol plants produce more than 3.8 million metric tones off DDGS annually. Anticipated growth in the ethanol industry will result in 66 percent more DDGS by the year 2005. The National Corn to Ethanol Research Center is the only pilot plant facility in the country with the ability to conduct a feasibility study and include results from processing corn through to the end product and by-product. Gov. Blagojevich also recently announced $1 million in Opportunity Returns funding to support the center’s role in technological innovation to continue to reduce the costs of ethanol production.
Southern Region Ethanol/Biodiesel Project 2005 AgriFIRST Recipients
· Mid-America Biodiesel, LLC, $90,000: to complete a feasibility study to evaluate the potential for a 40-million gallon per year biodiesel facility in White County. At full capacity, the plant would process 27 million bushels of soybeans annually. Approximately 33 percent of the soybeans required would come from the region. The demand on the corn supply should increase the price farmers are paid, and Mid-America Biodiesel estimates producers could see an increase of an additional 10-15 cents per bushel.
Last week, the Governor announced his support for the Fuels Security Act of 2005, legislation sponsored by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), that would more than double the amount of ethanol used nationwide – reaching 8 billion gallons by 2012. U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) co-sponsored the legislation.
During his two years in office, Gov. Blagojevich has taken numerous steps to advance the ethanol and biodiesel industry in Illinois:
· Announced $500,000 in Opportunity Returns funding to increase access to E-85, an advanced hybrid of ethanol, and allow more gas station operators to offer the 85 percent ethanol fuel;
· Last August, the Governor signed legislation requiring the Illinois Secretary of State’s office to create a database of flexible fuel vehicles, many which are built to run on 85% ethanol fuel, in order to lead to more E-85 fuel stations options around the state;
· Within months of being sworn into office, the Governor also lobbied for and signed legislation to eliminate the state sales tax on E-85, allowing the fuel to retail for 10 to 15 cents per gallon cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline;
· Provided $4.8 million to the Lincolnland Agri-Energy Ethanol plant in Robinson, to help the plant succeed in closing on private financing for the project – the plant is now producing more than 40 million gallons of ethanol per year;
· Signed an Executive Order requiring increased use of both ethanol and biodiesel by state employees, similar to the measure included in the federal proposal.