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Ethanol bill moving through Idaho Legislature

Sun., March 5, 2006, midnight

BOISE - Legislation pushed by the Idaho Farm Bureau to require all gas sold in Idaho to be at least 10 percent ethanol is moving through the Legislature, after winning passage in the state Senate on a 27-8 vote on Feb. 24. The bill, SB 1364, awaits a hearing in the House Environment and Technology Committee.

Ethanol is an alternative automotive fuel derived from grain and corn. Usually it is blended with gasoline to form gasohol.

Similar legislation failed last year, but sponsors picked up more support by requiring that the ethanol blend standard take effect only after Idaho has ethanol production capacity for 30 million gallons of the fuel a year. The state has no ethanol production plants, but several are in the works, including a proposed facility in Eastern Idaho that would be the nation’s first plant to extract ethanol from cellulose, such as wheat and barley straw.

Backers of the bill say it will be a small step toward weaning the nation from its dependence on foreign oil. “This is a national security issue that our whole country faces,” said Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa.

However, supporters estimate it could take five years before Idaho reaches the production capacity that would trigger the ethanol requirement. About 600 million gallons of gas is sold annually in Idaho, according to state figures. That means about 60 million gallons of ethanol would be needed to meet the 10 percent standard, should the bill pass.

U.S. ethanol plants will distill almost 4.6 billion gallons of the renewable motor fuel this year, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute said - up 17.5 percent from the record 3.9 billion gallons last year recorded by the Renewable Fuels Association. Production is led by corn-producing states Iowa and Nebraska. There’s been talk of producing ethanol from potato waste and other Idaho products, though corn from the Midwest also could be used.

From staff and wire reports


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