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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Ethanol could be in Decaturís near future

Decatur may be in a position to benefit from what shows every sign of becoming a booming business: ethanol fuel production.

At the quarterly meeting of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, President Jeremy Nails said he has been in near-daily contact with an ethanol producer. The company, not identified by Mr. Nails, is looking for a place to put a $50 million plant that would employ up to 60 people.

As any moonshiner knows, ethanol fuel is derived from fermented corn. Demand for the product jumped several years ago when gas stations began selling blends with 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. Recent developments promise to push demand for the product even higher. Four million "flexible fuel vehicles"

drive on U.S. roads. They are built to operate on a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

The overwhelming necessity for ethanol production is cheap freight transport. It so happens that Decatur's main economic strength is just that. Railroads, barges and an interstate highway converge in this city.

Not only would an ethanol plant add jobs to the Decatur area, it would put Decatur on the map for an industry that promises enormous growth. Strife in the Middle East has once again reminded the nation that dependence on petroleum-based products, especially gasoline, has great potential for disaster. Concerted efforts by the main oil producers could bring the U.S. economy to an abrupt halt.

Aside from the national security issues, petroleum supplies are finite. We are using petroleum far more quickly than the earth can create it.

The beauty of ethanol is that it plays to one of America's strengths, agriculture. It also is renewable.

We commend Mr. Nails for recognizing the opportunity, and we encourage him to help Decatur seize it.

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