Conferees to discuss gasoline alternative

State, U.S., industry officials want to build ethanol plant in Md.

October 11, 2001|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

State, federal and industry officials, including a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, will gather at a hotel near Baltimore-Washington International Airport today to discuss Maryland's role in reducing the country's dependence on foreign energy.

The all-day conference is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy in conjunction with the state Department of Agriculture, the Maryland Energy Administration and the Maryland Department of the Environment.

It will focus on plans for the construction in Maryland of a $30 million ethanol production plant.

Ethanol is a gasoline substitute or extender that is made from a blend of 85 percent alcohol and 15 percent gasoline. The alcohol can be made from barley, wheat, corn or other starchy products such as sweet potatoes.

"The conference, at BWI Marriott, will present a broad overview of the ethanol industry," said S. Patrick McMillan, an assistant to the state agriculture secretary for government relations.

"It will deal with policy issues related to the production of ethanol, the environmental issues and the production of ethanol to help stimulate a weak farm economy," McMillan said.

R. James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and now a partner with the Washington law firm of Shea & Gardner, will discuss energy security and its relationship to national security.

"The main thing I have to say, and I've been saying it for a long time, is that it is not a good idea to rely on the Middle East for oil," Woolsey said yesterday.

He said the United States should continue to look for ways to produce cheap transportation fuel, including ethanol.

Lynne Hoot, executive director of the Maryland Grain Producers Association, said the conference will provide general information to potential investors in a state ethanol plant.

She said the association is looking for 600 investors of $20,000 each to raise $12 million toward the construction of a 15 million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant.

Plant developers could borrow the other $18 million needed to complete the plant, she said.

Hoot said the association likes the idea of a plant that would make ethanol from barley. The hope is to sell the ethanol at stations around the state for about $1.50 a gallon.

Farmers would benefit by receiving $2 a bushel for their barley, which currently sells for about $1.20 a bushel.

Demand for alternative fuels is growing, she said, noting that an increasing number of vehicles rolling off auto assembly lines are built to run on either gasoline or ethanol.

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