Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mississippi Wastes $75 Million on Ethanol Scam

I wonder if the politicians in Mississippi know how to read or listen, as the news of the hundreds of millions wasted on so-called renewable energy by the Obama administration doesn't seemed to have reached the deep south, with Mississippi throwing around $75 million in low interest loans for the building of cellulosic biofuels plant in the state.

They also have offered up $155 million in tax incentives to get the boondoggle going. What a criminal waste of the taxpayer's money. And yes it is taxpayers money because they're the ones that will have to pay for it when it crashes and burns.

The company confisgating the state loan is named Virdia, which just changed its name from HCL Cleantech. They take natural matter such as woodchips and other plant matter and convert it into sugar, which is then converted into ethanol.

Virdia CEO Philippe Lavielle admits the amount of money offered by the state, along with $10 million in venture debt and another $20 million in venture capital equity isn't enough to build a viable plant that can successfully operate at a commercial level and compete against corn-based ethanol. He confessed concerning the money that "it takes more than that. It takes a chemical firm that will want to build it to have access to sugars for their own conversion processes."

According to Lavielle, the costs of building a commerical plant which would produce about 500,000 tons of sugar on an annual basis is $380 million. That could supply a 25-million-gallon ethanol plant, according to the CEO.

Another negative factor and complication to the success of such a plant would be the need for it to be located close to a chemical plant or a paper mill so it could be able to tap into the power infrastructure serving those businesses, and in the case of the paper mill, to be able to use the existing equipment for handling wood. Lavielle says it'll take up to three years for a plant like that to be built.

Historically capital requirements and projections are almost without exception much higher and take a lot longer to reach the expected goals.

To be able to compete with the scammy and damaging corn-based ethanol, Lavielle says corn would have to remain at a price of over $4 a bushel. While corn prices in the United States are higher now because of droughts in Argentina and Brazil which are expected to generate more exports for U.S. corn, that's a temporary situation, and corn could easily plummet below the $4 mark very rapidly.

Add to this the cost factors associated with cellulosic, which includes the requirement of having a wood production facility very close or the cost of shipping wood and plant matter to the facility soars.

Looking at the overall picture, ethanol, no matter what the form, is a waste of valuable time and money.

New discoveries of oil and gas shale, along with the technology to extract it from the rock, has changed the entire energy game in the United States, which now has enough energy to last possibly for centuries.

The known reserves already are estimated to last for well over a century in the United States, and there are many areas where it is unknown as to how much there actually is in America, let alone across the world. That's the future of American energy independence, not these idiotic and irresponsible projects that are truly nothing more than a scam. Ethanol, whether produced by corn, wood chips or plant material, is nothing more than that.

The people of Mississippi should be outraged over this travesty, but they're surely drinking the kool aide of jobs being created, even though not too long afterwards when the company declares bankruptcy, they'll all be lost.

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