Courtesy of the Daily Shopper of 1 April 2006: -- Enterprising residents have found a way to save on their fuel bills after cancellation of a planned hydroxyethane plant. Plans for the pilot plant near Grand Detour were abandoned in early February after A. Etoh Smith, Twin Cities Minnesota financier, announced he was pulling out because "Ethanol demand was oversold and projected capacities are expected to bring down prices". The pilot plant and engineering office were put up for auction, at the time leaving the local economic development officials at loss about what to do. After a series of meetings at which "a bunch of us joked around, talking about buying the equipment to make green moonshine," plans for a local fuel coop were hatched, according to Bill Maki, one of those who remembers the surprising turn of events that followed. "We thought that organic hooch ought to bring top dollar from those East Coast types" said Bill. Corn was cheap. "But we soon realized that we had to have put some serious money into licensing, bottles, labels, and so on". From that realization came a green inspiration: locally produced fuel. Bill's wife Ethyl explained, "With high gas prices killing us every time we filled up our trucks, I said we had no money left for a liquor distribution scheme. I felt bad saying it because the guys were getting their hopes up; but somebody had to face the facts."
But as the old saw goes: 'the darkest hour came just before the dawn'. Said Ethyl: "A few days later, I re-thought it and decided we ought to organize an effort to buy the abandoned plant, borrow corn from our local farmers and pay them back in fuel." One thing led to another, and pretty soon residents were trading in their pickups and SUV's on the new flex fuel models.
Meanwhile, a group of students in the Automotive Repair 201 class at Tec-Ed Center were looking for ways to make some money this summer and one of them, 17 year old James Deere, reportedly came up with the idea of delivering "green thunder," as everyone had taken to calling the ethanol. A couple of kids installed delivery tanks and modified their engines for "green thunder" deliveries.
On the first Sunday of March, Rock County fair grounds hosted a "Green Thunder' race. It was a big hit; and, in following days AR class members were reportedly spending serious "chat room time" discussing ideas for new engine mods and pumps to allow for 'faster service'.
Tickets for the next race are sold out and there are rumors of "outsiders" calling the Holiday Inn for weekend reservations. "We decided to knock off the chat rooms any more" said Eddy Drake, one of the AR students, "because we figured that the FBI or some Chinese would be listening and steal our design."