Another Renewable Fuels Project Fails: Taxpayers Pick Up the Bill Again

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Easier than burning cellulosic ethanol

The Range Fuels cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia was supposed to turn pine trees into ethanol to fuel automobiles. It failed and has now been sold for pennies on dollar. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports:

The Range fiasco harkens other, failed renewable energy companies that received major taxpayer funding. California solar panel maker Solyndra got $535 million in federal loan guarantees. Beacon Power of Massachusetts, which makes energy-storage equipment, took in $43 million in federal money. Both filed for bankruptcy last year.

Range cost U.S. taxpayers $64 million and Georgia taxpayers another $6.2 million. Tuesday's sale netted $5.1 million which will help offset losses suffered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Georgia's money, which paid for some of the ethanol-making equipment, won't be recouped outright, but state officials expect LanzaTech [new owner] to use the machinery….

The Bush administration's Energy Department steered a $76 million federal grant to Range. The Department of Agriculture followed up with an $80 million loan guarantee. Georgia officials pledged $6.2 million. Treutlen County, one of the state's poorest, offered 20 years worth of tax abatements and 97 acres in its industrial park.

Private investors reportedly put up $158 million. In all, the project raised more than $320 million.

Range, unable to turn wood into ethanol, closed its doors a year ago. It never came close to creating the 70 jobs once promised.

The numbers in the article don't quite add up: If one includes the DOE grant of $76 million plus the $80 million USDA loan guarantee, the total loss to taxpayers would seem to amount to $156 million.

In any case, read the whole article here.