Skelton presented the mock check to MME President Ryland Utlaut at the plant just outside Malta Bend during a press conference Friday morning, along with Nathan Chitwood of the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Develop-ment office in Columbia. It represented a value-added grant from the USDA Rural Development office to MME.
"Besides the economic benefits, we're going to have between a $160 to $170 million increase, about 1,800 new jobs for us here in Missouri, much less the corn growers have a ready market right here in this ethanol plant," Skelton said. "But what's equally important, maybe in the long run even more important to our country, is the fact that it will be a major step in helping to wean us from the dependence on Middle Eastern oil."
The money MME received will be used as working capital by the 729 farmers who have their own money invested in the Malta Bend plant. The grant program, which was formalized in the current Farm Bill, has given about 480 grants in the past three years worth around $86 million.
"People don't understand," said Chitwood of some farm program opponents. "They may see a grant of a half million dollars and think it is a waste of taxpayer money, but it will have a tremendous impact on the local economy."
MME had originally been denied the $500,000 grant, the largest amount that can be awarded, when the new generation cooperative first applied about a year ago. Chitwood reasoned that the original denial was a result of computer glitches.
"It's not a handout. It's a helping hand," said John Quinn, a state representative from Chillicothe who also attended the ceremony.
Another possible blend is known as E85. This is an 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline blend which can only be used in newer vehicles designed as Flexible Fuel Vehicles, or FFVs. It is available at only a handful of gasoline stations, two of which are in Columbia, two in Jefferson City and two in Kansas City.
As a fuel, ethanol releases less carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere than gasoline. However, some point out ethanol is more corrosive than gasoline, increasing wear to vehicle fuel systems that are not ethanol-compatible.
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