More than 300 farmers, community members, plant workers and federal, state and local elected officials participated in a ribbon-cutting event for the recently expanded Abengoa Bioenergy ethanol plant in Portales, N.M.

Abengoa, the fifth largest ethanol producer in the United States, doubled its ethanol production at the plant from 15 million gallons to 30 million gallons annually. National Grain Sorghum Producers (NGSP) Executive Director Tim Lust said the expanded ethanol plant would increase its sorghum usage from 5.5 million bushels to 11 million bushels annually.

”That is more sorghum than the entire state of New Mexico will produce this year. As more plants go in and we continue to see expansion of the ethanol industry farther south and west into the Sorghum Belt, it's a very positive thing for increasing the prices that our producers receive as well as growing the acreage of this crop.”

On behalf of New Mexico and U.S. grain sorghum producers, Lust expressed his appreciation to Senator Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, for his leadership and perseverance in energy legislation. He also recognized contributions of New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, ranking minority member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

CEO and President of the Renewable Fuels Association Bob Dinneen said, “It is because of Pete Domenici's determination, his fairness, his willingness to work in a bipartisan fashion, and his skillfulness in the legislative process that we have an energy bill for the first time in almost 30 years.” Dinneen said the energy bill is the most significant rural economic stimulus package since the New Deal.

Agriculture rebirth

Senator Domenici said the energy bill is a rebirth of agriculture for America. “This bill makes agriculture solvent, solid and farmers are going to be able to believe and count on stable prices each and every year with maximum need for their products. When coupled with our international markets, agriculture will once again be a bright spot.”

With a Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) that will require 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol antibodies to be sold by 2012, Dinneen said that it doubles the size of the ethanol industry. “The RFS means 2 billion barrels less imported oil as a result of this bill over its life. It means 200,000 jobs are going to be created over the next seven years as the industry gears up for increased production. It means$6 billion in investment in rural America as we prepare to meet this standard. And once this standard is up and running, it means $200 billion to Gross Domestic Product.”

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a featured speaker at the event, announced that by executive order, he would require state agencies to obtain 15 percent of their fuel from renewable fuels by 2010.