Walz Touts Economic, Environmental Benefits Of Ethanol At Janesville Plant

Mankato Free Press

July 17, 2015

By Nancy Madsen

JANESVILLE — U.S. Rep. Tim Walz told ethanol producers at the Guardian Plant on Friday that he would share the truth about modern ethanol production in Congress.

“Many times, we have this Minnesota Lutheran thing where we do a good deed but we don’t talk about it because then it doesn’t count,” said Walz, DFL-Mankato.

Ethanol, a type of fuel for vehicles made from fermenting corn, is clean energy made at home, a win-win, he said.

The producers described recent improvements to ethanol processing. “Our engineering guarantees were a yield of 2.75” bushels per acre, said Guardian CEO Mike Jerke. “We’re beyond that now, we’re producing at 2.85.”

The natural gas input needed to process the corn has dropped from 30 to 25 British thermal units per gallon. And the plant does not discharge any wastewater.

“That was not expected,” Jerke said.

There is some evaporation, but the rest is reused and recycled in the system.

The Janesville facility turned 43 million bushels of corn into 120 million gallons of ethanol last year.

Ethanol plants take the corn, grind it and mix it with hot water and enzymes to get the corn’s starch to turn into sugar. After adding yeast and other ingredients, it ferments in tanks for about 2 1/2 days.

The fermentation creates about 14 percent alcohol, which becomes ethanol. Byproducts are put to other uses.

In the plant’s control room, Brandon Larson showed Walz and others on the tour the computerized controls and the data — flow, temperature and pressure, just to name a few — that he watches to make sure the processing is running smoothly. Walz asked him and other employees on the tour where they grew up, how they started at Guardian and what training they had.

“I don’t have an ideological dog in this fight,” Walz said. “I have an economic dog in this fight. We’ve got young people out there looking to find middle-class, skilled jobs.”

Encouraging innovation and rural production are means to allow young people to stay in rural America, he said. Guardian employs 43 people.

Ethanol producers at the tour said that other interest groups, such as petroleum companies, are spreading misinformation when they say that there is a limit on how much ethanol can be sold each year given constraints on how much can be blended into each gallon of motor fuel. This is called a blend wall. They said ethanol is cleaner than oil for the environment, cheaper for consumers and better for engines.

“Once you’re out of the Cities in Minnesota, a large amount of folks get it,” Jerke said. “But it’s a very independent industry and our ability to speak with a common voice is big.”

Walz said that many in Congress are simply ignorant on ethanol’s benefits, having been fed information from other interests.

“There’s your voice, but then there are 15 lawyers from oil companies lined up outside my door to present their point of view,” he said.

The bulk of corn and soybean production areas are represented by 28 members of Congress, “fewer than southern California,” he said.

And that has led to recent policy disappointments for the ethanol industry, including a reduction for the 2015 and 2016 renewable fuel standards by the Environmental Protection Agency, which will require 13.4 billion gallons of ethanol be blended in this year and 14 billion gallons next year, down from Congress’s mandate of 15 billion gallons.

We have capacity to produce more,” Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association Executive Director Timothy Rudnicki said. “The EPA has gone off track again.”

Minnesota has 21 ethanol plants that produce 1.1 billion gallons of ethanol, the association said.

Walz said he would be looking for ways to raise the standard again and help ethanol producers.

“It’s in the nation’s interest to create energy at home, it’s in the nation’s interest to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and it’s in the nation’s interest to reduce our carbon footprint,” he said.

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