Calif. farmers team up to convert beets to ethanol

Calif. farmers team up to convert beets to ethanol

Calif. farmers team up to convert beets to ethanol

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Associated Press

Posted on March 23, 2013 at 8:04 AM

Updated Sunday, Mar 24 at 11:25 AM

FIVE POINTS, Calif. (AP) — In California's Central Valley, a once-dominant crop that has nearly disappeared from the state's farms is making a comeback: sugar beets.

But these beets won't be processed into sugar. A dozen farmers, supported by university experts and a $5 million state grant, are set to start construction on a Fresno County demonstration plant that will convert the beets into ethanol.

If the demo project succeeds, the farmers will build the nation's first commercial-scale bio-refinery in nearby Mendota to turn beets into biofuel. Europe already has more than a dozen such plants, but 95 of the ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn.

The farmers say the bio-refinery would bring jobs and investment to an area that's dealing with water pumping restrictions and overly salty soils.

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