On a normal business day, the road to the POET Biorefining plant at Macon is full of grain haulers waiting in line to unload corn. But Wednesday, April 28, was anything but typical. On this day, the road was lined with American flags, curious citizens and television satellite trucks all awaiting the arrival of the presidential motorcade.
Employees of POET Biorefining, along with special guests and media, greeted President Barack Obama during his swing through northeast Missouri on his "White House to Main Street Tour." The President toured the ethanol plant with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Serving as tour guides were Steve Burnett, plant general manager; John Eggleston, board president; and Jeff Broin, POET CEO. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and other Missouri political and agricultural leaders also joined the President at the ethanol plant.
President Barack Obama visits with POET Biorefining CEO Jeff Broin during his tour of the Macon, Mo., ethanol plant. The President addressed the employees of the majority-farmer owned ethanol cooperative.
The President addressed the plant's employees and ag leaders in attendance, reaffirming his commitment to growing the corn-based ethanol industry and future generations of biofuels. Stating that energy security has been a top priority for his administration, Obama discussed the need to ignite a new clean energy economy to help achieve long-term growth and prosperity.
"There shouldn't be any doubt that renewable, homegrown fuels are a key part of our strategy for a clean energy future - a future of new industries, new jobs in towns like Macon, and new independence," he said.
"I've come here today, and I visited Iowa yesterday, because there's a lot that towns in Middle America can share with the rest of America. There's certainly a lot you can share with Washington. Common sense, for one. So I just wanted to talk with folks like you about what your communities are experiencing - the economic pain, but also the economic possibilities."
Obama commended the ethanol plant backers and employees. "Ten years ago next month, this plant produced its first gallon of ethanol. Today, 45 employees produce 46 million gallons a year. Congratulations to all of you," he said.
Missouri Corn Growers Association CEO Gary Marshall noted that the state's farmer-owned ethanol industry embodies the entrepreneurship and innovation of Missouri farmers. Nearly 82% of the Macon plant is co-owned by 316 Missouri corn farmers.
"The Macon plant is a showcase of what happens when a community comes together," Marshall said. "Nearly 10 years ago, a group of farmers made a serious investment to launch an ethanol industry that today is creating good jobs, providing a cleaner environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil."
The Poet Biorefining - Macon plant, which opened as Missouri's first ethanol plant in May 2000, was featured in the White House to Main Street Tour April 28. The EPA recognized the plant in 2007 with an Energy Star CHP Award for a Combined Heat and Power partnership with Macon Municipal Utilities that started in 2003.
Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, also was pleased to see President Obama visiting the ethanol plant. "Being there first-hand to see the production of ethanol and to talk to the employees of the plant gives an important perspective on how policies made in Washington, D.C., affect the Main Streets of America," Jennings said. "The President's fiscal year 2011 budget supports extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, and the President created the Biofuels Interagency Working Group to tackle some of the pressing issues facing ethanol production and use. These steps, combined with the President's trip to an ethanol plant, are helpful and important."
Missouri's ethanol production is projected to exceed 275 million gallons this year, displacing 10% of the state's gasoline needs. "Given farmers' amazing production capacity and advancements in biotechnology, there is opportunity here for continued growth while still satisfying the demands of livestock and overseas customers," Marshall said. "But for that expansion to happen, higher ethanol blends, such as E15, need to be approved immediately; corn-based ethanol needs to be classified as an advanced biofuel based on its environmental benefits; and additional Flexible Fuel Vehicles need to be widely available to utilize mid-level and higher ethanol blends. To be successful over the long-term, we must ensure federal policies in Washington don't hamstring our farmers here at home."