ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The FUEL Ethanol plant in Mitchell County is now running at full capacity.
The plant is pumping out as much as 300,000 gallons of the alternative fuel a day and sending it as far away as Tampa and Jacksonville Florida. With cheaper oil prices and gas falling to $1.60 in southwest Georgia and across the nation is the industry worried?
Seventy-five train cars filled with Indiana corn are off-loaded in Mitchell County. Each car with enough corn to run the FUEL Ethanol plant an entire day.
"Our full capacity is somewhere between 280,000 and 300,000 gallons of ethanol a day and we've been making that fairly consistently now for several weeks," said Murray Campbell, FUEL CEO.
Once processed the E-10 blend is sent to Bainbridge, Albany, and as far south as Tampa, but falling oil prices could have an effect on the southeast's largest ethanol plant.
"As some of that speculation has come out of the markets and we did make the second largest corn crop in history and the report came out yesterday that said we're going to have an even larger carry over than we thought. Corn prices have come back down and that's kept the margins in the ethanol industry," said Campbell.
The plant isn't just selling ethanol it's also putting out this distillers dry grain that it can sell to farmers for feed.
"Approximately 900 ton of dried distillers grain is going out of here each day," said Tommy Dollar, FUEL Chairman.
That helps the plant diversify when fuel prices fall, but if you question whether the product is needed, Washington leaders say, yes. They point to the fluctuation of fuel prices in the 1970's and say as fast as gas prices came down, they could go up.
"We have got to move toward alternative energy production and this is a step in the right direction," said Congressman Sanford Bishop.
It's an industry that last year generated 30 billion dollars in income for the United States, that didn't go to a foreign country. Mitchell County's plant now employs 51 people.
Plant officials said Friday they're also looking at ways the plant can also be converted to handle cellulose once that technology improves.
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