By Nancy Allen
National and state corn grower associations should speak out to ensure ethanol manufacturers and blenders pass on government tax credits to customers, a local ag co-op official said.
Rural Celina farmer Keith Houts, who is president of the Ohio Corn Growers Association, spoke during Tuesday's monthly agriculture breakfast in Celina about renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Included in the energy bill are tax credits to renewable fuel manufacturers and blenders to encourage the production and use of renewable fuels, with a goal to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
"As fuel prices have gone up, so have ethanol prices," said Dave Reichhart of Minster Farmers Co-op.
Reichhart said ethanol manufacturers are increasing the price of ethanol and soy-based biodiesel to levels almost as high as gasoline. This is good for the manufacturers, but not so for motorists who don't see the tax credit savings passed on, or for farmers, who regularly see fluctuations in soybean and corn prices, he said.
Houts said passage of the energy bill last August is still "cause to celebrate for corn growers" and for the nation, if it reduces the dependence on foreign oil and gives corn growers another market for their product. Houts testified before the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee last May in support of a biofuels bill. Though the cost of ethanol has gone up with gasoline, it is still a bargain for consumers, said Sam Spofforth, executive director of the Central Ohio Clean Fuels Coalition (COCFC).
Spofforth said ethanol still costs less than gasoline and has added benefits for farmers, the nation and the environment.
"With gas prices having gone up in recent months and through the entire year, ethanol is still cheaper than gasoline," Spofforth said. "When you factor in the tax credit for ethanol, it still provides fuel markets and consumers an opportunity to save money."
The COCFS focuses on E85 ethanol, which is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, and can be used in flexible fuel vehicles. There are about 140,000 flexible fuel vehicles operating in Ohio, Spofforth said.
Currently there is just one station in Hilliard that sells E85 fuel, a Speedway station owned by Marathon. Spofforth said more stations are coming.
"There will be one station in the Toledo area opening tomorrow, and there will be others in Northwest Ohio coming yet this year and a lot more next year," he said.
Go to www.cocfc.org for more information on ethanol, a list of retail stations selling biodiesel and ethanol in Ohio and a list of flex fuel vehicles that run on both straight gasoline and ethanol.