Novella includes politics, sabotage in ethanol industry

By Ryan C. Christiansen | January 03, 2009
Web exclusive posted Jan. 8, 2009, at 2:31 p.m. CST

A Minneapolis author and Iowa native has published a 196-page novella about the history of the ethanol industry, politics and sabotage. Bernard DuClos has written "Article V (the movie)," a story about a fictional Iowa Governor named Kathy Brandon and her efforts to promote increased ethanol production in the face of $10-per-gallon gasoline, and her opponents' efforts to squash her resolve—using whatever means are necessary.

Originally a screenplay that has been adapted into novel-form, the book examines the history of ethanol politics in the U.S. and the struggle to promote carbohydrates over hydrocarbons. The story uses the backdrop of the 237 MMgy Archer Daniels Midland Corp. ethanol plant in Clinton, Iowa, to explain the process for how corn-based ethanol is produced.

DuClos said the inspiration for the screenplay-turned-novella came from multiple sources, including growing up in rural Iowa and listening to the old-timers talk about cars and tractors running on corn gas and automobile parts made from soybean plastics.

"Part of my youth was in a rural area," DuClos said. "Every once in a while, I used to shell corn out of the crib and stuff and, of course, there is a lot of talking that goes on when you're making hay and all that. And the older guys would talk about stuff. You know, you heard things like there was corn gas and there were plastics on Model Ts and that Henry Ford was using soy plastics for gearshift knobs and that kind of stuff. And so you hear this stuff."

DuClos said other factors also inspired him to write the work, including his experiences during the energy crisis in the 1970s; learning about the 1930s chemurgy movement to produce industrial products from agricultural raw materials; and researching the politics behind the construction of the Alyeska pipeline in Alaska, which runs from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, for his previous work "Fair Game" (St. Martin's Press, 1993), which was a Doubleday True Crime Book Club selection.

"Ultimately, what I'm doing is delivering a lot of information and history that most people don't know and, quite frankly, will find disturbing when they realize how much manipulation has gone on since the Civil War in terms of energy," DuClos said, adding that it's important for the ethanol industry to team up with other renewable energy advocacy groups to promote their agendas. "It's going to be imperative that some of the ‘good guys' get together," he said. "[The ethanol industry] has its own particular interests, but on the other hand, there is at least strength in numbers. Just seeing how things operate and how the media is used to really distort stuff, it's going to be important."

DuClos has published the novella through iUniverse. The book is available through major booksellers.