CHICAGOGov. Rod Blagojevich announced March 8 that $500,000 in Opportunity Returns funding is now available to establish new E-85 facilities at retail gasoline outlets in Illinois. E-85 is a blend of 70 to 85 percent ethanol that can be used in Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) designed to burn E-85, unleaded gasoline, or any combination of the two fuels. E-85 fuel is a cleaner burning renewable fuel made from corn grown in Illinois and other Midwestern states. This aggressive effort to promote the use of ethanol as a viable and efficient source of fuel in Illinois is part of the Governors Opportunity Returns initiative, his comprehensive, proactive strategy to promote economic growth throughout the state.
My administration is committed to working to reduce gas prices by supporting ethanol as a practical alternative. With soaring gas prices, ethanol is a cleaner burning and cheaper alternative that also creates jobs in Illinois. We will do all that we can to support ethanol, and to support higher ethanol blends such as E-85. This is an important step in the right direction, said Gov. Blagojevich.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunitys (DCEO) E-85 program will provide up to 50 percent of the total cost for converting an existing facility (maximum grant of $2,000 per site) to E-85 operation, or for the construction of a new refueling facility (maximum grant of up to $40,000 per facility). Individuals or companies operating retail gasoline facilities are strongly encouraged to apply.
Gov. Blagojevich and I will continue supporting important initiatives that promote ethanol as a viable and environmentally friendly alternative to imported energy sources. E-85 helps our farmers, helps grow our economy and helps lessen our dependence on foreign oil. I know that this new program will help make E-85 more readily available across Illinois, State Senator George Shadid (D-Pekin) said.
Gov. Blagojevich and I understand that there are innovative ways, right here in Illinois, to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, while providing an important boost to our economy. This Opportunity Returns funding strongly demonstrates our commitment, today and tomorrow, to ethanol as a viable energy alternative, State Representative Dan Reitz (D-Sparta) said.
With this new program, we will be able to help local gas retailers support ethanol – something many of them want to do. Gas station operators will now be able to apply for assistance with the costs of the infrastructure they need to be able to offer E-85. Illinois currently has only about twenty E-85 stations available to the public, and we want to dramatically increase that number, said DCEO Director Jack Lavin. Depending on demand, we hope to have 100 stations in Illinois by the end of 2006.
There are currently more than four million FFVs on the road today nationwide, with approximately 100,000 of those in Illinois. Widely available models include the 5.3 liter Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Pickup trucks, 3.0 liter Ford Taurus sedans and 4.0 liter Explorers, as well as 3.3 liter Chrysler Caravan Minivans. A complete list of models is available at www.e85fuel.com. A list of current E-85 retailers in Illinois is available at www.illinoisenergy.org or at www.illinoisgreenfleets.org.
The $500,000 in funding for the new E-85 Clean Energy Infrastructure Development Program is through a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to DCEO.
We are very pleased to extend the support of the Foundation to E-85 infrastructure projects across Illinois. E-85 produces much less CO2 pollution, the leading global warming gas, and simultaneously produces very real economic development impacts across rural Illinois, said Foundation Chairman Phil Novak.
Also in support of E-85, Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation in 2003 that eliminated the state sales tax for E-85 fuel, pricing it competitively with unleaded gasoline. E-85 fuel now typically runs 13 to 15 cents per gallon less than regular unleaded gasoline. E-85 helps reduce gasoline prices by reducing demand for gasoline, particularly when supplies are tight.
Earlier this year, Gov. Blagojevich also issued an Executive Order (# 7) requiring state employees to use E-85 fuel whenever practical. The State of Illinois operates one of the largest fleets of E-85 FFVs in the country. The new DCEO program will further expand the number of stations available to state employees, as well as the public, to use E-85.
Program guidelines are available through the DCEO Web site at www.commerce.state.il.us or by contacting 217/785.5082.
Gov. Blagojevichs Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesnt work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regionseach with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local work force, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.