Corn farmers in the area chipped in $5,000 to $300,000 each -- some even mortgaged their farms -- to form the Central Illinois Energy Cooperative. They broke ground on the refinery in 2006, hoping that ethanol would bring higher prices for their corn and more jobs for Canton. The town had been in trouble since 1983, when International Harvester Co. closed its plow factory there.
The ethanol plant was a poor replacement, Bloomberg Markets reports in its July issue. Central Illinois Energy LLC, the corporation that built the plant, went bankrupt in December 2007 without having produced a drop of fuel, hurt by construction delays and $40 million in cost overruns. The 260 farmers in the co-op lost every dime.
Some of them blame the flameout on a poker-loving, libertarian math savant named Andy Redleaf, whose Minneapolis- based hedge fund firm, Whitebox Advisors LLC, now controls the plant etc. etc.