WisBusiness: State pledges help for ethanol industry

By Gregg Hoffmann

State Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi said Wednesday that the Doyle Administration will do everything it can to aid the ethanol industry to develop in the state.

Busalacchi told 1,500 participants in the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Trade Show that ethanol could be a key to state transportation challenges and to Gov. Jim Doyle’s Grow Wisconsin initiative.

“To grow corn is to grow Wisconsin,” Busalacchi said, in what he said was a paraphrase of Doyle. He added that ethanol provides “value-added” products that benefit agriculture and other segments of the state economy while also helping the environment.

State government also receives an estimated $1.2 million per year in tax revenue from the ethanol industry, Busalacchi said.

Busalacchi expressed some concerns that incentives for ethanol and renewable fuels survive a federal energy program that is still being debated. “We feel confident that we can still get adequate federal funds for transportation and what is needed for renewable energy options,” he said.

Dan Schoof, 45th Assembly District Representative who will take over as head of the state Department of Energy on July 6, said he understands the potential impact of the ethanol industry.

“In my district, we have Genencor (which produces enzymes for converting grain starches into sugars), Badger State Ethanol and GM, which is producing SUVs that can use ethanol,” Schoof said. “I have seen the job creating potential.”

Schoof called for “removal of the dependency on the oil fields on the Middle East and move it to the farm fields of the Midwest and world.”

The conference, which runs through Friday at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, is the biggest in the 20 years of FEW (Fuel Ethanol Workshop).

Wisconsin has three operating ethanol plants and two more under construction. It lags behind surrounding states like Iowa and Minnesota. Ethanol plants also have faced somewhat strong opposition in places of the state.