09/03/2009 Marquette County Tribune - Ethigas Means More Ethical Fuel Choices in Marquette County

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Kathleen McGwin
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MARQUETTE COUNTY TRIBUNE • September 3, 2009 Page 14


Ethigas means more ethical fuel choices in Marquette County


By Kathleen McGwin


Green Marquette County There are a lot of people out there in Marquette County who are thinking green and sustainable. Kathleen McGwin would like to tell their stories in the Marquette County Tribune. No matter how small or big, contact her at 297-9746 if you have a story about going green, restoring the land, or leaving a smaller footprint on our planet. We can all learn from each other.



If Scott Kempley and Joel Burbach, both Marquette County residents, have it their way, Kempley’s 2,000- acre farm will be self sustainable in 10 years and operating on ethanol fuel made in mint distillers using plant material grown on 35 acres of land. Sound impossible? Not according to Kempley and Burbach who have begun Ethigas Cooperative, which is exploring with vigor the possibility of producing ethanol using ideas based on ethanol expert and author David Blume’s work of revitalizing rural America with small production ethanol plants.


Blume recently won the American Corn Growers Association’s Truth in Agricultural Journalism award. The association said in presenting the award, “We presented our Truth in Agricultural Journalism award to Mr. Blume for his insight, integrity, and knowledge and for his courage to be unbiased, impartial, and honest in his commitment to families on the land. We encourage and support Mr. Blume’s efforts. He is doing good and vital work on behalf of farmers and the American populace.”


The expert who’s been interviewed on Public Radio and who is invited to seminars around the country was recently in Madison presenting a 2 day workshop that Kempley and Burbach attended. They invited him to Endeavor where he gave a copy of his book, Alcohol Can Be a Gas! to Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold after one of his listening sessions. The Marquette County men also donated a book to the Endeavor Library.


The Minnesota farmer and author extols rural revitalization in the United States as well as job creation and ending the dependence on foreign oil by building small ethanol production facilities in rural communities that would use not just corn, but other sustainable plant and waste material. Kempley and Burbach, long time friends, saw a natural connection to mint farmers who distill their crop on their farms. The distillers sit idle for much of the year and the men are studying how the mint distillers could be used to make ethanol during those down times.


Marquette County is the number 1 producer of peppermint,” said Kempley. “We grow 2 varieties of mint.”


Kempley also grows sod and potatoes. The small distilleries for ethanol that Blume proposes use materials besides corn. Some of the most efficient plant material in ethanol production are sugar cane, beets, sweet sorghum, potatoes, and cat tail tubers. “Cat tails are also a water filter,” said Burbach. “In Brazil they’re producing 10,000 gallons of ethanol from cat tails grown around a waste treatment plant. The plants are filtering the water and are a source of ethanol.” The men have hired a grant writer to research various funding sources that could be used to develop the cooperative and help mint farmers retrofit their mint distillers to accommodate ethanol production. They believe that it is possible that in 10 years Kempley can produce enough ethanol made from sugar beets and cat tails to replace 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel used on the farm. But that’s just the first step for Ethigas. They want other farmers and individuals to do the same and may someday even produce enough to have a pump that sells to others.


The use of alcohol or ethanol is a growing and still at times contentious business. Alcohol burns 98% clean, making it a more efficient and less polluting fuel. Kempley and Burbach both run their vehicles on 50% E 85 ethanol mix and 50% gas, more than the auto manufacturers recommend.


My car runs just fine on that mix,” said Burbach. “I lose 10% mileage, but the lower cost more than makes up for it and my car runs cleaner and more money stays in America.” Blume’s philosophy and work are a part of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture (IIEA). The IIEA, with an international Board of Directors, promotes permaculture. The IIEA website at www.permaculture. com says, “Permaculture is the art and science of designing human beings’ place in the environment. Permaculture design teaches you to understand and mirror the patterns found in healthy natural environments. You can then build profitable, productive, sustainable, cultivated ecosystems, which include people, and have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. Permaculture designs range from households to major agricultural enterprises and even entire bioregions.”


Kempley and Burbach are sold on using these ideas to become less dependent on foreign oil, more self sustainable, and to invigorate Marquette County’s rural community. “


Ethigas means ethical gas and that means alcohol,” said Burbach. “Alcohol produced locally with sustainable plant or waste material.”


If you want to learn more about Ethigas, contact Scott Kempley at 297-2653 or Joel Burbach at 297- 9593. To learn more about Alcohol Can Be a Gas! or David Blume go to www.permaculture.com.




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