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Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Governor: Ethanol could be a solution

By William Kincaid

Jerry and Tamara Barger of Celina pose with Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and the tra. . .

ROCKFORD - Gov. Ted Strickland believes producing energy within Ohio is vital for its economic future and ethanol fuel is the answer.
Strickland spoke to a supportive large crowd at Shane's Park in Rockford on Tuesday evening as part of the Mercer County Democratic Central Committee's summer picnic.
"We need to produce energy right here at home," Strickland told the crowd. "It is a part of our future and our economic renaissance."
According to Strickland, Ohio is the largest corn producing state in the country without an ethanol plant and the second biggest consumer of ethanol energy.
"Ohio will become an exporter of ethanol," Strickland vowed, before acknowledging that increased corn prices have been tough on beef producers.
Strickland also emphasized the state's need to use its existing resources, such as solar and wind power, while expanding the research of fuel cell technology, clean coal energy and biodiesel.
Strickland said the temporary controls set on the electric industry after its deregulation a few years ago will expire at the end of next year - a time which could prove to be very costly to consumers without adequate planning.
"It is possible the prices could skyrocket," Strickland said, mentioning the state of Maryland, where electricity prices rose 70 percent after similar controls expired.
To prevent what Strickland calls a fatal mistake, he as well as all of the shareholders involved in the electric industry will hold meetings.
Throughout the evening, Strickland continually presented a message of optimism and hope despite the obvious problems plaguing Ohio.
"The challenges we face are huge challenges. We've got problems in Ohio ... the economy is flat," he said.
But Strickland said the people of Ohio once again will know how good this state can be, as he offered positive outcomes from the recently approved two-year budget, which includes no new taxes or fees of any kind.
The budget was designed with an underlying ideology: to live within our means and invest in what moves Ohio forward, Strickland said. It takes into account poor pregnant women, as well as elementary, secondary and higher education and health care.
"It's the right thing to do for the mother and the child," Strickland said about the budget inclusion that will provide additional health care access.
Although Strickland said he hasn't solved the school funding problem, he believes he has taken a step in the right direction. This year's budget increases funding to elementary and middle schools by 3 percent each year of the budget.
He also pointed out that each year for the last 10 years, institutions of higher education have increased tuition by an average of 9 percent.
"What we've done is freeze college tuition for two years," he said, pointing out its just like putting money in the pockets of those parents who help finance their children's education.
Simultaneously, $50 million has been allocated to colleges and universities, while over $100 million in student grants for those pursuing science, technology, mathematics and engineering have been established.
"We want to get the best minds possible and get them to come back to Ohio," he said.
Through the recent tobacco settlement, Strickland said the state will receive a $5 billion lump sum - instead of yearly payments - which will allow Ohio to increase the number of new elementary and middle schools built each year as part of the Ohio School Facilities Commission.
Strickland also pointed out that Ohio will not borrow money for the next two years and its consequential interest will equal a total savings of $257 million.
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