Potent potential for ethanol?

March 16, 2009
Poet Biorefining has four more Indiana ethanol plants on the drawing board, but they'll stay on paper until capital markets and demand for the biofuel improve, an executive of the South Dakota company said on a recent trip to Indianapolis.

"We've seen the perfect storm hit our industry and, really, our economy," said Bob Berens, director of site development for the nation's largest ethanol producer. It operates plants in Alexandria, North Manchester and Portland.

The industry has struggled with sagging demand and high corn prices even as it tries to hit a federally mandated 15 billion gallons of ethanol by 2015.

Poet is the big sponsor of Growth Energy, an ethanol-marketing group trying to convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lift the ethanol cap to 15 percent, from 10 percent for ordinary gas.

Growth Energy and Indiana ethanol producers earlier this month claimed that lifting the cap to 15 percent would create 3,400 Indiana jobs and generate more than $600 million in revenue.

Backers may have a friend in Ford Motor Co., which has signaled its support for a blend of up to 15 percent, according to Kiplinger's Biofuels Market Alert. The big hurdle has been concerns of potential damage to fuel systems on non-flex-fuel vehicles.
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