Illinois' ethanol industry continues to grow steadily, making the corn-based gasoline additive one of the state's more successful "crops."
The latest figures show Illinois as the Number Two state in ethanol production behind Iowa. The state produced 775 million gallons in 2004, 23 percent of U.S. production. One of every six rows of Illinois corn is now converted to the fuel.
Ethanol has been boosted by unswerving home-state political support, sky-high oil prices and the decision by several states to ban a competing gasoline additive called MTBE.
Two of Illinois' newer plants, in Lena and Palentine, are farmer-owned cooperatives, but the real power remains Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland.
ADM touts the fuel as beneficial to consumers and good for the economy, but some critics still question its benefits.