Ethanol giant shifts gears

Fagen Inc. was pretty busy from 2006 to 2008, building 47 ethanol projects across the U.S., bringing in about $2.2 billion in revenue for the family-owned business in Granite Falls, Minn.
“Corn ethanol has been the best thing that has happened to the farmers since the invention of the combine,” said 61-year-old Ron Fagen, who grew up in the tiny community of Maynard near Granite Falls. “It gives them another market for their corn.”
But the ethanol party’s over, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

“It all came to a screeching halt when our friends on Wall Street manipulated the commodity market,” Fagen said, commenting on the volatility of corn and oil prices.
Others would argue that it was ethanol’s friends and enemies in Washington and state capitals who did the manipulating over subsidies and mandates. The Environmental Protection Agency last month, for example, postponed a decision on a proposal backed by the ethanol industry that would increase the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline from 10 to 15 percent.
Regardless, Fagen has been retooling his business model. The company will finish one more U.S. ethanol plant in Pennsylvania, but Fagen’s attention already has turned to other forms of renewable energy — biomass and wind. Going forward, Fagen said he thinks his business mix will be about 60 percent biomass projects, 25 percent wind energy and the remaining share coming from building other types of industrial facilities.

Fagan is actually taking part in a project to build what is expected to be the largest biomass-fueled (i.e. wood scrap) power plant in the U.S. in the coming years for the City of Austin.