BOONE LIFE: Harvesting fuel

Friday, October 15, 2010 | 12:01 p.m. CDT; updated 4:49 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 21, 2010
Dave Stemme harvests corn on some of his property near Centralia. The corn is harvested to go to the plant in Laddonia to be refined into ethanol for gasoline use around the United States.

CENTRALIA — For ethanol producer Dave Stemme, it's farmers like himself that define his work.

“Family farmers in this country have pooled their resources to build an ethanol industry," he said.

Stemme, who lives near Centralia, produces corn for the ethanol industry.  His small farm has a handful of employees, but he hopes to make a difference much larger than his operation.

"A lot of our refinery capability has been built by farm owners and operators in this country to produce ethanol that goes into our gasoline supply,” Stemme said.

At this point in the season, the corn has lost its color and is all dried up.  It rustles in the wind that passes over the vast farmland. Although it is no longer growing, it still has potential.

"They process our corn into ethanol alcohol for gasoline, and they have a byproduct of dried distillers grain," Stemme said about the ethanol plant, which is the final destination for the grain. Dried distillers grain is a high protein feed for the livestock industry. But most of the corn is used domestically in our fuel production.

Stemme hopes the ethanol industry will continue to expand.  In addition to reducing emissions when added to gasoline, ethanol will also reduce dependency on foreign oil.

“We are now producing about 10 percent of the nation's gasoline supplies that are required by our population annually,” Stemme said. “So that is 10 percent less that we have to get from foreign sources.”

Ethanol is Stemme’s livelihood. The majority of the corn he plants each year goes to ethanol production. 

“We felt that it was an environmentally sound business practice,” Stemme said. “It’s worked out very well for us.”

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