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Wednesday, June 25, 2008 03:39 pm

Perfect storm

Company dissolves; plans for ethanol plants scrapped

Untitled Document Heartland Ethanol LLC has jettisoned plans to construct seven ethanol plants around Illinois, including one in Waverly, in nearby Morgan County.
Walker Filbert, Heartland’s president, says rising commodity prices, especially of corn, combined with the high price of petroleum and very little easing in credit markets, prompted the company’s private-equity investors to “put their money to better use someplace else.”
In early June, floods swept over the Midwestern plains, wiping out entire corn crops and pushing corn over the $7 per bushel mark. Construction of dozens of proposed ethanol refineries had already been on hold across the U.S., and in Illinois, as Wall Street has cooled to the idea of corn-based gasohol and banks have grown increasingly skittish about providing financing for new plants.  “When we thought things were getting a little better, they turned a lot worse,” Filbert says. “People were wigging out when [corn] hit $5. At $7 and headed to $8, for lack of a better term, things are just kind of goofy right now.”
Heartland, headquartered in Pittsfield, is in the process of liquidating and distributing its assets — which include farmland in Griggsville, in Pike County, and Royal, in Champaign County — to the group of approximately 35 investors, Filbert says. He adds that an ongoing court battle with Waverly residents seeking to block the plant is “pretty much moot” and that beyond shutting down the company he has no immediate plans. “We’ll be OK. All this was voluntarily done. No one forced us to do it,” he says. “It was the perfect economic storm, I guess you could say. It just came to an end sooner than we thought.”

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com.
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