Ford, VeraSun Launch ‘Ethanol Corridor’

June 29, 2006

By Jim Suhr, AP Business Writer

Ford, VeraSun (VSE) Partner in Launch of Midwest `ethanol Corridor’ for Motorists

ALTON, Ill. (AP) — Motorists seeking gasoline blended with ethanol will have one-third more sites to get the fuel in Missouri and Illinois under a program launched Thursday by Ford Motor Co. and the nation’s second-largest ethanol producer.

Ford, the nation’s second-biggest automaker, and VeraSun Energy Corp. said the program would add more than 50 sites offering gasoline and fuel blends of up to 85 percent ethanol — known as E85 — largely along Interstate 55 in Illinois and Interstate 70 in Missouri. Officials say it would create an “ethanol corridor” in the Midwest.Ford called the venture necessary, noting that fewer than 750 of the more than 180,000 fuel stations across the country offer E85, which runs in specially made flexible fuel cars. Most of the E85 fueling stations are in the Midwest.

The corridor should enable owners of flexible fuel vehicles to travel interstates 55 and 70 between Chicago and Kansas City, Mo., — a 1,700-mile roundtrip — exclusively on renewable, corn-based E85, Ford and VeraSun said.

“That is success by any measure,” Sue Cischke, Ford’s vice president for environmental and safety engineering, said during a news conference at an Alton fueling station that Thursday began selling E85. “E85 today became a little easier to find.”

Corn-based, high-octane fuel has risen from obscurity in recent years because it’s viewed as a way to help the U.S. cut its dependence on foreign energy sources.

Ford, headquartered in Dearborn, Mich., and Brookings, S.D.-based VeraSun plan to further stoke consumer awareness of E85. Ford is running an E85-themed ad campaign in certain Illinois and Missouri markets, and informational items including a map of the new E85 sites will be sent to owners of Ford’s flexible fuel vehicles along the corridor.

Thursday’s announcement came a day after U.S. automakers said they will double production of flexible-fuel vehicles by 2010, adding vehicles capable of running on ethanol blends and other biofuels and reducing dependence upon foreign oil.

The Big Three automakers — Ford, General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group — have produced 5 million flexible fuel vehicles. They are expected to produce an additional 1 million of the vehicles this year, and their commitment would lead to 2 million annually by 2010.

In meetings on Capitol Hill last month, executives with those companies stressed their work on alternative fuels and highlighted the lack of service stations offering the fuels.

Ford already offers four flexible fuel vehicles — the 2006 F-150, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car — and will produce up to 250,000 of those types of vehicles this year.

VeraSun operates ethanol plants near Aurora, S.D., and Fort Dodge, Iowa, producing about 230 million gallons of the renewable fuel each year. The company has broken ground on a third plant in Charles City, Iowa, and is planning to build facilities in northwestern Iowa and near Welcome, Minn.

VeraSun hopes to boost annual production to 560 million gallons by early 2008, the company has said.

The nation’s 97 ethanol plants are producing about 4.5 billion gallons of the corn-based fuel per year, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, and another 33 plants under construction would boost annual capacity to 6.4 billion gallons within a few years.

The renewable fuels standard, passed as part of the 2005 energy bill, stipulates that 4 billion gallons of renewable fuels such as ethanol be used nationwide this year, increasing incrementally to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. If all the new plants come online by 2008, production could surpass what the government requires that year by as much as 1 billion gallons a year.

Ford Motor Co., http://www.ford.com

VeraSun Energy Corp., http://www.verasun.com

Renewable Fuels Association: http://www.ethanolrfa.org

Source:  Yahoo

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