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Sikeston sets aside land for possible ethanol plant

Thursday, February 23, 2006

SIKESTON -- Things are looking good for an ethanol plant in Sikeston.

The Sikeston City Council approved an option for Bootheel Agri-Energy LLC to buy 158.42 acres in the Sikeston Business, Education and Technology Park during a special meeting Wednesday morning.

Bootheel Agri-Energy's board of directors are slated to make the decision to exercise their land purchase option tonight.

A meeting for potential investors is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Clinton Building although board members may not advertise or otherwise seek publicity for the meeting due to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

Ethanol in general, however, is getting plenty of publicity and supporters for the Sikeston plant were among those who gathered in Cape Girardeau Wednesday along with representatives from farm groups to hear Gov. Matt Blunt voice his support for ethanol in Missouri.

Blunt visited several communities around the state in an effort to influence the Missouri Legislature to pass a bill requiring a 10-percent mix of ethanol into every gallon of gas.

Mandating oil companies to mix ethanol with every gallon of gasoline sold in Missouri will stimulate farms and rural development, according to Blunt. "I want Missouri to be a leader in alternative fuels," he said.

If Blunt's plan is approved, Missouri would become the fourth state to require an ethanol blend for all gasoline consumed in the state.

Terry Hilgedick of Boone County, president of the corn producers association, said the time is right to push ethanol. The nation has a surplus of corn and a shortage of oil, he said. "The planets are aligned for ethanol," Hilgedick said.

Ethanol plants in Missouri currently produce 115 million gallons annually. Plants under construction and in the planning stages would boost that amount to 350 million gallons per year, Blunt said.

Under Blunt's proposal, Missourians would burn 260 million gallons of ethanol in their cars and light trucks.

The U.S. ethanol industry now has 95 plants nationwide. Analysts say by 2012 it will double in volume, from producing 4.3 billion to 7.5 billion gallons of biofuel. That growth will be aided by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which gives ethanol producers sizable subsidies, including a federal tax credit for small refiners.

Archer Daniels Midland Co. Chairman and CEO G. Allen Andreas told analysts Tuesday he expects producers will get another bump since ethanol companies' rising demand for American-grown corn will push corn prices higher. ADM, headquartered in Decatur, Ill., is one of the world's largest corn processors.

Six states have passed laws that require ethanol-blended gasoline, and nine others are considering similar legislation, according to the American Coalition for Ethanol. In addition to Missouri, Kansas is considering a proposal to require that all gasoline sold in each state contain 10 percent ethanol by 2010.

Some of the information for this article was supplied by the Southeast Missouri News Service and the Associated Press.