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Published August 28, 2010, 12:00 AM

Pomeroy looks to help ethanol industry

Tours Tharaldson plant in Casselton on Friday
CASSELTON, N.D. – Ethanol producers are running out of time when it comes to tax credits given to the fuel producers who use a blend of ethanol and gas.

By: Wendy Reuer, INFORUM

CASSELTON, N.D. – Ethanol producers are running out of time when it comes to tax credits given to the fuel producers who use a blend of ethanol and gas.

At the largest ethanol producing plant in North Dakota, Tharaldson Ethanol in Casselton, officials are hoping lawmakers will be able to come through for them and extend the credit past its expiration date at the end of this year.

The credits were first implemented to encourage the use of ethanol in fuels by companies willing to blend ethanol with gas.

Kyle Newman, senior vice president of Tharaldson Ethanol, says it is not a matter of needing help for the production of ethanol anymore. Now, it is a matter of simply breaking into the market, and allowing consumers to choose between gas that is made from home-grown ethanol or gas that comes from foreign oil.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., stopped at the Tharaldson Ethanol plant Friday to see the state’s newest plant and its 61 employees.

In March, Pomeroy authored a bill that would have extended the credit through 2015. Pomeroy said he knew the bill would be a tough sell but he hopes to at least come through with an ethanol credit extension as large as possible for as long as possible, even if only for another year.

“It’s critically important that be extended,” Pomeroy said. “It’s just barely been extended in the nick of time in the past.”

The Tharaldson plant was finished in 2009. It has the capacity to use 43 million bushels of corn and produce 120 million gallons of ethanol each day. The plant primarily produces ethanol from statewide producers and ships by ground and train.

Plant manager Bill Paulsen said the 2010 year will likely end on a high note as the United States Department of Agriculture is forecasting record-breaking harvests for the state.

Paulsen agreed with Newman, saying the product availability is not the concern, harvesting a market share and having aid to build infrastructure of ethanol accessibility is.

“It’s not an ethanol mandate, it’s releasing us from a gas mandate,” Paulsen said of desired legislation.

Pomeroy said he is fighting a wane in enthusiasm for ethanol in both the government and the public.

“We’re trying to get past a regulation where you put 90 percent Saudi Arabian gas in your car and only 10 percent from home-grown ethanol gas,” Pomeroy said.

The argument that ethanol fuel is taking corn away from food is null according to Tharaldson staff.

Tom Lane, an agent for Tharaldson Ethanol with Verde Bioproducts pointed to the company’s newest product on Friday. Tharaldson is marketing corn oil, a byproduct of its ethanol production to bio-fuel companies.

“Our stuff happens to be going to the biodiesel right now but we could sell it to the livestock industry also,” Lane said.

Other byproducts at the plant are already being sold for livestock such as dried distillers grain. The ethanol process removes the starch of the grains but leaves the protein, a benefit for livestock producers.

“You’re actually improving the food source to animals, not taking away,” Lane said.

Pomeroy said Friday he is hoping to push an extension on the ethanol credit through the U.S. Legislature before the end of the year. He said once an extension can be made then he will also push for programs that will allow ethanol producers to break into the fuel markets further and allow more competition with straight gasoline.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530


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