By KYLE CAMPBELL
Capital News Service
LANSING — Less than a year after a brutal drought damaged corn crops across the Midwest, the ethanol industry is looking to recover from its first national decline in 15 years. Though Michigan’s corn crop was damaged less than those in nearby Indiana and Illinois, production of ethanol — an alcohol-based fuel made from corn — slowed at its refineries while other facilities throughout the U.S. idled or were shut down. For example, the Global Ethanol Inc. Riga facility near Blissfield was able to maintain its 46 employees through last year’s drought but experienced declines in output, plant manager Bill Welever said. “The ethanol industry is highly dependent on the weather and, in turn, there’s peaks and valleys,” Welever said. “Over the course of the last six years, there’s been a lot of ups and downs.”
Jim Zook, executive director of the Michigan Corn Growers Association, said this year’s crop projections look promising, but extended cold temperatures and heavy rainfall have delayed planting a few weeks for many farmers.