As gasoline prices hit new record highs statewide, a northern Iowa ethanol plant is announcing plans to double its capacity. Walter Wendland, president of Golden Grain Energy in Mason City, says using corn to create fuel will help our nation distance itself from the reliance of oil fields in the Persian Gulf region. Wendland says we need to expand the amount of renewable fuel that’s available in the U.S. as OPEC is producing a billion barrels more than is needed, yet the price still isn’t coming down. He says the backbone of our country’s fuel independence lies in the hard work of farmers. Wendland says “It’s our hope that in the Midwest here we can have a little more impact on gas prices and try to increase the supply of ethanol to bring those prices down.” He says the recently-passed federal energy bill, which would more than double ethanol production over the next few years, is a big step forward in the process. He says the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina is also hurting the ethanol industry, at least his end of it. His company relies heavily on natural gas as a heating source to make the fuel, so prices have gone up proportionately. Wendland envisions a day in which corn-based ethanol can play a much larger role in powering our vehicles, to the extent that price fluctuations caused by natural disasters, warfare or OPEC threats are irrelevant. In the meantime, he believes the gas prices will come down this fall. Golden Grain announced this week an expansion which will double the amount of ethanol it produces from 50 to 100-million gallons a year. The plant opened in December of 2004.
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