SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Reiterating his commitment to the Illinois agricultural industry and building on his efforts to improve the state and nation's energy independence, Governor Rod Blagojevich on Thursday celebrated the continued growth of E-85an advanced hybrid of ethanolwith the opening of additional fuel pumps in Central Illinois.
Qik-n-EZ in Lincoln is one of the most recent stations to offer E-85, and now 23 stations in the state offer the environmentally friendly alternative fuel. A grand opening of the Qik-n-EZ Station in Lincoln was held Thursday, [image-nocss] sponsored by Qik-n-EZ, the American Lung Association of Illinois & Iowa, the Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO).
E-85 is often 50 to 60 cents cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline, the governor said in a statement. Ethanol has the potential to revolutionize the oil industry as we know it today and reduce our reliance on oil from overseas. As we continue to see the ethanol industry grow in Illinois with fuels like E-85, we're supporting homegrown energy that supports our farmers and our economy, he said at the event. Businesses and consumers continue to see the potential of E-85, and it's exciting to see more and more stations offering and more and more customers requesting this environmentally friendly fuel in Central Illinois and throughout the state.
In early March, Gov. Blagojevich announced $500,000 in Opportunity Returns funding to establish new E-85 facilities at retail gasoline outlets in Illinois. E-85 is a more environmentally friendly blend of 70% to 85% ethanol that can be used in flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) designed to burn E-85, unleaded gasoline or any combination of the two fuels. There are currently more than four million FFVs on the road today nationwide, with approximately 100,000 of those in Illinois.
We're expecting rapid growth of E-85 in Illinois because consumer demand is rising so quickly, and it is Gov. Blagojevich's support and leadership that is leading to this growth, said DCEO Director Jack Lavin. Since Gov. Blagojevich took office, he has provided $80 million to supporting research, production and consumption of ethanol in Illinois, and there is no better way to reducing our reliance on foreign oil and supporting agriculture in our state.
The DCEO's E-85 program provides up to 50% of the total cost for converting an existing facility (maximum grant of $2,000 per site) to E-85 operation, or for the construction of a new refueling facility (maximum grant of up to $40,000 per facility). Individuals or companies operating retail gasoline facilities are strongly encouraged to apply. A full list of E-85 retailers across Illinois is available at www.illinoisenergy.org or at www.illinoisgreenfleets.org. Gas stations selling E-85 in Central Illinois include Qik-n-EZ locations in Lincoln, Shelbyville, Bloomington and Springfield; Fuel 24 locations in Mason City and Taylorville; Wolff Oil in Litchfield; and Road Ranger in Lombard.
Increasing ethanol research and production is a significant component of Blagojevich's comprehensive energy plan for Illinois, he said, and the governor has taken several steps to move the ethanol industry forward:Supporting the national Fuels Security Act of 2005 that will more than double the amount of ethanol used nationwide. Under the federal legislation, ethanol use in the United States would rise from 3.7 billion gallons today to 8 billion gallons by 2012. Announcing $1 million in Opportunity Returns funding for the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to support the center's role in technological innovation to continue to reduce the costs of ethanol production. Providing $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. Signing an Executive Order requiring increased use of both ethanol and biodiesel by state employees, similar to the measure included in the federal proposal. Lobbying for and signing legislation to eliminate the state sales tax on E-85, allowing the fuel to retail for at least 10 to 15 cents per gallon cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline, within months of being sworn into office.
On Wednesday, Blagojevich and the Governors Ethanol Coalition (GEC) announced their support for federal legislation to increase corn ethanol production in America and to support research and development in the production of ethanol from new feedstocks.
Under the proposal unveiled by the GEC, 5% of America's transportation fuel would come from ethanol by 2010 through a law known as a National Renewable Fuels Security Standard. As a result of this legislation, $800 million in federal money would be committed to research and development to enable the production of ethanol from additional biomass sources, including corn kernel fiber, corn stalks, wheat straw and other agricultural wastes. An additional $800 million would be committed to support early commercialization of biomass ethanol plants.
America's national security is linked to our dependence on foreign energy, and our country's economic growth is threatened by soaring oil prices. But we have options right here at home to achieve new, long-term energy stability and to help lower the price that we pay at the pumps. We can double our production of ethanol through traditional methods and develop new technologies to produce ethanol from corn fiber and alternate agricultural wastes, Blagojevich said. I have faith in the work of our farmers and in the creativity of our agribusinesses that they can dramatically expand our production of ethanol here at home. Congress can take steps to support this industry and heighten America's energy independence through advanced ethanol research and production.
During Gov. Blagojevich's chairmanship of the GEC in 2004, the coalition began convening stakeholders to develop recommendations for both the Renewable Fuels Standard and for the development of ethanol from new biomass feedstocks. Today, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the current chair of the coalition, released the report on the findings of that collaborative process. The report, Ethanol From Biomass: America's 21st Century Transportation Fuel, is available on the GEC website.
The first major recommendation of the report is for Congress to enact a National Renewable Fuels Security Standard, with the nation achieving a 5% standard by 2010. Under this standard, ethanol use would grow from approximately 3% of the transportation fuel mix today, or 3.7 billion gallons of ethanol annually, to 5%, and then specifically meet a total gallon standard of 8 billion gallons by 2012. Blagojevich previously announced his support for the bipartisan Fuels Security Act of 2005, introduced in March by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), which mirrors the GEC recommendation and raises ethanol production to 8 billion gallons by 2012. U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) are co-sponsors of that legislation.
Two other major recommendations of the report call on Congress to support research, development and commercialization of ethanol from biomass resources. Biomass refers to many common sources of fiber, such as corn kernel fiber, corn stover, wheat straw, rice hulls, papermill waste, and many other common agricultural and forest residues found across the country.Ethanol production from traditional corn sources can double or perhaps triple in America. But ethanol could become a much larger energy resourcea sizeable portion of overall sources for transportation fuels, significantly reducing the nation's dependence on imported oilif economically produced from additional biomass resources, the statement said.