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Ethanol Attracts New Investors, BioDiesel Gets Boost from "Big Oil"

posted on April 7, 2006

Immigration reform has been a focal point of the Bush administration. But not all Americans are jumping on the bandwagon. A poll conducted this week by the Associated Press and an international polling firm, revealed 62 percent of Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants with jobs to apply for legal status. But only 47 percent of the rural citizens polled support the idea. Nevertheless, the President is calling for legislation that creates a guest worker program and strengthens border security. The administration also is concerned about America's increasing dependence on foreign oil and that sentiment is fueling a boom in alternative sources of energy. Renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel are attracting investors on both Main Street and Wall Street.

Ethanol Attracts New Investors, BioDiesel Gets Boost from

This week, the nation's second largest ethanol producer -- VeraSun -- announced plans to go public. The producer, based in Brookings, South Dakota, estimates an initial stock offering of up to $150 million. VeraSun plans to sell its ethanol directly to refiners, blenders, and other end users.

But ethanol is not the only renewable fuel making headlines. The soybean derivative biodiesel is receiving a boost from an unlikely source -- Big Oil. This week, a major oil refiner, Motiva Enterprises -- a joint venture between Shell Oil Company and Saudi Aramco -- began blending soy biodiesel with traditional fuel at a Dallas terminal this week. The refiner claims the $120,000 pilot program lends credibility to the soybean-based fuel. A spokesman for the National Biodiesel Board called the terminal blending a "behemoth step."

The move by corporate America to cash in on renewable fuels comes at a time when the ethanol industry is expanding rapidly. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the U.S. ethanol industry set a new monthly production record of 288,000 barrels per day in January. Those production numbers are expected to rise even higher in the future. The RFA estimates an additional 33 ethanol plants are under construction.

But road blocks remain for future renewable fuel expansion. Only 651 service stations out of 167,000 nationwide sell either E-85 ethanol or B-20 biodiesel --that amounts to less than half of one-percent.

Tags: biofuels ethanol investing news renewable fuels Wall Street