An official from the National Corn Growers Association has urged Erie County officials to consider using ethanol-blended fuels in county vehicles.

Noting its positive impact on the environment and the U.S. economy, Michael Bryan of the corn group pitched the idea of switching to fuels that are blended with at least 10 percent ethanol. The fossil fuel alternative, which is produced from corn, makes a lot of sense, Bryan told the Legislature's Energy and Environment Committee.

"It's a chance to do something good for the environment, while reducing this country's dependence on foreign oil," he said.

By mixing the corn distillate with traditional gasoline, auto emissions -- such as carbon monoxide, benzene and xylene -- are substantially reduced, Bryan said. He said the oxygenating properties of the additive would be especially beneficial to the Buffalo area.

"Buffalo is one of 100 U.S. cities that is out of compliance on the federal clean air standards. That could change by switching to an ethanol blend," he added.

He said that the county would be in good company if it decided to make the change to ethanol, noting that 44 of 63 counties in Minnesota have made the switch, along with that state's vehicle pool and all school districts in Minnesota and South Dakota.

Committee Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, said it's time the county took a serious look at ethanol and all other alternatives fuels.

". . . I'd like to have the commissioners of Environment and Planning (Richard M. Tobe) and Public Works (John C. Loffredo) study the feasibility of using ethanol and other substitute fuels," he said.

This isn't the first time local attention has turned to ethanol as a potential substitute fuel. In the early 1980s, local and federal officials studied establishing an ethanol-producing plant in the Town of Tonawanda.

The effort collapsed when the plant site was considered inadequate. Currently, the closest source of ethanol is the Pal Oil Co. in Palmyra.

Bryan also praised ethanol as a means of pumping new life into the country's agricultural community by creating a new market for corn production. He estimated ethanol-blended fuels presently account for 8 percent of gasoline consumed annually in the United States.

Bryan appeared in Buffalo Tuesday as part of a nationwide push, "Operation Prairie Fire," aimed at igniting new interest in ethanol use.

Click here to see the comments. Add yours now!