Bush expected to plug ethanol tonight

The ethanol industry, which is mushrooming in Indiana, could get a massive push from President Bush in his State of the Union speech tonight, according to The New York Times.

Bush might call for increasing ethanol to as much as 10 percent of total gasoline consumption by 2012. Such a ramp-up could require producing 15 billion gallons of ethanol a year by then compared with the current goal of 7.5 billion gallons. The nation’s existing capacity is 5.4 billion gallons per year.

With half or more of the new production expected to come from corn, the ethanol lobby is racing to maintain the momentum before a critical mass of backlash develops in Congress and among the general public, the Times reported.

Ethanol has only two-thirds the energy of gasoline and relies on subsidies to make it economical.

Indiana had only one plant three years ago, near South Bend. Now, the state approximately 18 plants in use, under construction or in various stages of planning. Some experts believe a dozen more might crop up before the price of corn is bid so high that it no longer is economical to use for ethanol. Continued use of corn also could drive up grocery prices.

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