Illinois governor to push biofuels

| 9/8/2006

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has announced a $1 billion initiative to give Illinois farmers a boost while reducing the state’s dependence on foreign oil.

The first-of-its-kind energy plan includes investing $100 million during the next five years to build up to 20 plants to turn corn into ethanol and spending $25 million to build five plants to transform soy into biodiesel.

The new biodiesel plants would boost the state’s production by 200 percent to 400 million gallons a year, which is equivalent to 25 percent of the state’s annual diesel fuel needs by 2017. During that same time, ethanol production would be increased by more than 200 percent to meet 50 percent of the state’s annual gasoline needs.

Blagojevich, who is running for re-election this November, said he also wants to reduce motor fuel consumption by 10 percent during that time.

To fund the governor’s plan, Blagojevich’s office said lawmakers would have to approve borrowing money. Spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch told The Associated Press it would cost the state about $27 million annually to pay the debt on the $1.2 billion in bonds for the energy plan.

The plan also includes ensuring that each fuel station in the state offers E85, a fuel blend that is 85 percent ethanol, by 2017.

In addition, the state would spend $775 million during the next decade to build up to 10 new coal gasification plants to convert coal into diesel fuel, natural gas and electricity.

Illinois is the country’s leading soybean producer and ranks second in corn production. The state also has the nation’s third-largest reserve of coal.