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Soy Reigns Supreme
Plainfeld Firm's Products Greasing the Way for Transportation

Marlene Lucas

The Gazette

January 31, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

   Midwesterners eagerly use soybeanbased products, but outside the Midwest people don’t know soybeans.

   ‘‘People aren’t used to them,’’ says Lou Honary, founder of Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing in Plainfield, about halfway between Cedar Falls and Charles City.

   He thought it would be an easy sale once potential customers heard the product was from a United States-grown crop and that it helps farmers, ‘‘but it’s not always that easy,’’ Honary says.

   Yet most of the company’s sales are out of state and have brought $10 million into Iowa. ELM’s sales topped $7 million in 2005.

   The company was founded in 2000 with products based on 14 years of research at the University of Northern Iowa’s Ag-Based Industrial Lubricant Research Program.

   ELM’s best selling product is SoyTRAK, a lubricant for railroad tracks. Without the grease on curves, noise levels climb, high friction is generated and fuel consumption goes up.

   Customers for the grease include Virginiabased Norfolk Southern Railroad, Amtrak, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit and Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

   For the trucking industry, ELM provides soybased greases used by Crete Carrier Corp. and its affiliates.

   ‘‘I’m proud to be able to say our soy grease is on all these trucks throughout the country,’’ Honary says.

   ELM also manufactures hydraulic fluids, metalworking fluids, dust suppressants and concrete form release products. A truckload of chain saw bar oil was donated by ELM to utility companies and fire departments involved in hurricane cleanup efforts in Mississippi and Louisiana.

   Some government officials recognize the environmental benefits of ELM’s soy-based products. Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., switched from a petroleum product to BioSOY, an ELM hydraulic fluid.

   ‘‘They did themselves a favor,’’ Honary says. ‘‘With petroleum products, if they had a leak, they had to report it. If the ground was contaminated, it was a $25,000 to $30,000 expense to clean up. BioSOY is biodegradable.

   ‘‘It’s not a generally known rule from the EPA that if you spill BioSOY you’re better off. Sandia used it to reduce the reporting they had to do.’’

   Farmers who grow the genetically enhanced high oleic soybeans to supply ELM also are doing themselves a favor. They earned a premium of $1 a bushel on their soybeans grown on 40,000 acres in 2005, says Jerry Harrington with Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., which handles the production contracts.

   Value is added to the soybeans through manufacturing by ELM’s 16 full-time employees.

   ‘‘We add a lot of value. A gallon of lubricant is worth $8 to $10. It’s a fantastic way to create lubricants without going to Texas,’’ Honary says.