Serving Up the ‘Right Blend’ to Cure the Ailing Ethanol Industry
Huron, SD – At a time when ethanol companies have been expanding at breakneck speed, prices for the alternative fuel have plunged. The South Dakota Farmers Union is asking the Governor and other state leaders to help increase the number of blender pumps, which let the consumer decide what percentage of ethanol they want in their fuel.
Farmers Union President Doug Sombke says blender pumps are already in use in some areas of the state. He calls them a "win-win" because they reduce supply, while offering cleaner burning fuels and substantial savings to consumers. Their use also helps create a market that isn't controlled by big oil.
"Our problem is that we have a petroleum industry controlling our product. I mean, that's like asking Nike to market Adidas tennis shoes! We've got to get past that; we've got to get to the point where we all stand together here. Otherwise, all we've done as corn producers is make ourselves another commodity."
Sombke would like to see the number of blender pumps in South Dakota increase to 1,000 by the end of next year.
"We think finding a way to help the small co-ops and the small independent retail outlets for ethanol, to expand their usage through the blender pump, is the best way to go, and it gives consumers the opportunity to use it."
He suggests using corn check-off dollars to help gas retailers afford the costs of installation and conversion.
"I guess I'm calling, as a corn producer, on our South Dakota Corn Growers Association to look into that, and the Corn Utilization Council to provide the funds for such a venture. This is no more than a way to promote our corn usage."
The lower ethanol prices, caused by overproduction, already have forced closure of an ethanol plant in North Dakota, halted construction of projects in South Dakota and Indiana, and put a number future projects on hold. Sombke says the blender pumps may not be a cure-all, but they will help a struggling industry get back on its feet.