Epic Green Failure (updated)

Jerome J. Schmitt
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports the total failure of a taxpayer-subsidized $300 million "cellulosic ethanol" renewable energy plant in Georgia intended to convert pine trees into ethanol fuel.  It didn't produce any fuel and has now been shut down.

With modern engineering, it is not necessary to experiment with full-scale equipment to see if a process will work. Computer models can be used to predict accurately the performance of scaled-up reactors  based on empirical results from pilot-scale equipment. Such an expensive full-scale dud is quite rare and should be subject to an investigation.  Overstating the expected performance of this plant may be the equivalent of fraudulently "salting" a gold mine. Doubtless insiders benefited from the large flows of cash and subsidies, leaving taxpayers and private investors holding the bag. 

If the Greens are so sloppy or dishonest with their ethanol process model, why should we place credence in their Climate Models that predict Global Warming?

Update. John Peeples adds:

The opportunists taking advantage of our silliness never fail to sing the psalms of environmentalism:

Vinod Khosla, the dot-com billionaire behind Range Fuels, vowed in 2007 to "declare a war on oil" and said "cellulosic ethanol is the weapon we need."

Politicians and bureaucrats lip-sync the liturgy of the Greens:

"Range Fuels represents a new future for our country," proclaimed then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, flanked by dignitaries and beauty queens. "With Georgia's vast, sustainable and renewable forests, we will lead the nation."

Likewise,

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who steered a $76 million federal grant to Range, said that "by relying on American ingenuity and on American farmers for fuel, we will enhance our nation's energy and economic security."

A cause as worthy as Range deserved more than enthusiastic praise; it deserved public funds.  Gobs and Gobs of taxpayer support beyond that lavished by the Dept. of Energy:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture followed up with an $80 million loan guarantee.... Treutlen County, one of the state's poorest, offered 20 years worth of tax abatements and 97 acres in its industrial park....


In October 2007, Georgia awarded Range $6.2 million from the OneGeorgia fund, which uses tobacco settlement money for rural development. The Range subsidy is one of the largest grants ever given by OneGeorgia.

And, it wasn't only the rubes of Georgia who were suckered in:

Washington, too, believed in Range and Khosla, who co-founded Sun Microsystems. In return for the federal grant and loan guarantee, the government expected progress toward an alternative energy future. The Environmental Protection Agency pegged cellulosic ethanol production at 100 million gallons in 2010, of which Range was supposed to produce one-fifth.

In some repects, Range is a poster child for success in the nation's cellulosic energy sector.  Three years after construction began, the government re-evaluated its expectations for the industry.

EPA, citing technical and financial difficulties bedeviling the nation's six cellulosic ethanol producers, slashed the mandate to 6.5 million gallons for 2010. Critics doubt even that amount was manufactured.

While some plants shut down without ever producing a drop of alcohol,

The EPA eventually lowered Range's cellulosic ethanol output to 100,000 gallons, which Range said it produced, according to Klepper, before shutting down.


Total taxpayer investment in Range: $162,000,000.00.  Total project cost:  $320,000,000.00.  Total cost per gallon: $3,200.00.


What do the good citizens of this small town think about their project?

"You see what it's like around here. Businesses are closing. Storefronts are empty," said Little, the former school teacher. "I see hope moving further and further away."
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports the total failure of a taxpayer-subsidized $300 million "cellulosic ethanol" renewable energy plant in Georgia intended to convert pine trees into ethanol fuel.  It didn't produce any fuel and has now been shut down.

With modern engineering, it is not necessary to experiment with full-scale equipment to see if a process will work. Computer models can be used to predict accurately the performance of scaled-up reactors  based on empirical results from pilot-scale equipment. Such an expensive full-scale dud is quite rare and should be subject to an investigation.  Overstating the expected performance of this plant may be the equivalent of fraudulently "salting" a gold mine. Doubtless insiders benefited from the large flows of cash and subsidies, leaving taxpayers and private investors holding the bag. 

If the Greens are so sloppy or dishonest with their ethanol process model, why should we place credence in their Climate Models that predict Global Warming?

Update. John Peeples adds:

The opportunists taking advantage of our silliness never fail to sing the psalms of environmentalism:

Vinod Khosla, the dot-com billionaire behind Range Fuels, vowed in 2007 to "declare a war on oil" and said "cellulosic ethanol is the weapon we need."

Politicians and bureaucrats lip-sync the liturgy of the Greens:

"Range Fuels represents a new future for our country," proclaimed then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, flanked by dignitaries and beauty queens. "With Georgia's vast, sustainable and renewable forests, we will lead the nation."

Likewise,

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who steered a $76 million federal grant to Range, said that "by relying on American ingenuity and on American farmers for fuel, we will enhance our nation's energy and economic security."

A cause as worthy as Range deserved more than enthusiastic praise; it deserved public funds.  Gobs and Gobs of taxpayer support beyond that lavished by the Dept. of Energy:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture followed up with an $80 million loan guarantee.... Treutlen County, one of the state's poorest, offered 20 years worth of tax abatements and 97 acres in its industrial park....


In October 2007, Georgia awarded Range $6.2 million from the OneGeorgia fund, which uses tobacco settlement money for rural development. The Range subsidy is one of the largest grants ever given by OneGeorgia.

And, it wasn't only the rubes of Georgia who were suckered in:

Washington, too, believed in Range and Khosla, who co-founded Sun Microsystems. In return for the federal grant and loan guarantee, the government expected progress toward an alternative energy future. The Environmental Protection Agency pegged cellulosic ethanol production at 100 million gallons in 2010, of which Range was supposed to produce one-fifth.

In some repects, Range is a poster child for success in the nation's cellulosic energy sector.  Three years after construction began, the government re-evaluated its expectations for the industry.

EPA, citing technical and financial difficulties bedeviling the nation's six cellulosic ethanol producers, slashed the mandate to 6.5 million gallons for 2010. Critics doubt even that amount was manufactured.

While some plants shut down without ever producing a drop of alcohol,

The EPA eventually lowered Range's cellulosic ethanol output to 100,000 gallons, which Range said it produced, according to Klepper, before shutting down.


Total taxpayer investment in Range: $162,000,000.00.  Total project cost:  $320,000,000.00.  Total cost per gallon: $3,200.00.


What do the good citizens of this small town think about their project?

"You see what it's like around here. Businesses are closing. Storefronts are empty," said Little, the former school teacher. "I see hope moving further and further away."