The country’s top two states in ethanol production, Iowa and Illinois, are estimated to produce a record amount of the alternative fuel in 2007. In both states, numerous ethanol plants are in various stages of construction or awaiting permits to begin production as the demand for ethanol nationwide increases.

An ethanol refinery

Ethanol refineries, like the one pictured here, will increase in number as the demand for ethanol increases nationwide. Credit: DOE/NREL, Warren Gretz

In 2006, Iowa led the nation in ethanol production, producing a record 1.5 billion gallons. This number represents a 36 percent increase in production from 2005. Iowa also leads the nation in total ethanol plants with twenty-six plants currently in operation.

“Iowa’s leading role in ethanol is not likely to end either,” said Monte Shaw, executive director for Iowa’s Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA). “Iowa has sixteen new ethanol refineries and five major expansions under construction. IRFA estimates that a dozen new projects could begin in 2007, adding yet another 1.4 billion gallons of capacity.”

Shaw estimates that with the addition of the new plants and expansions, Iowa will increase its overall ethanol production by 1.6 billion gallons.

Illinois is also experiencing phenomenal growth with almost forty plant projects proposed in 2006. Currently, there are only six plants operating in the state; however, Illinois remains the nation’s second largest producer of ethanol. Of the forty plant proposals, five plants have received permits from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), twelve are being reviewed, and twenty-two have yet to begin the review process. Obviously, an increase in the number of ethanol plants will keep the state of Illinois highly competitive.

Recent legislation introduced to Congress has urged an increase in ethanol production in hopes that America can begin weaning itself off foreign oil supply. States like Iowa and Illinois face many challenges once America starts consuming more and more ethanol, but both states are confident that they will be able to meet the amplified demands. For updates concerning state ethanol production figures and information, visit the Renewable Fuels Association’s Web site (

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