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Archive for October, 2011

North Florida representative Matt Gaetz claims that when state government started getting in our gas tanks with the 2008 ten percent ethanol rule it brought harm to our economy and engines and stymied innovation and research.  He wants to dump the mandate.

I doubt that the congressman took the time to discuss this idea with public officials and businessmen in Highlands, Indian River and Hillsborough counties or with the researchers at U of F who are developing advanced fuel conversion technologies.  The ethanol rule is proving to be an example of how state government can stimulate innovation, entrepreneurialism and jobs without spending any money.  Dumping the rule now would be unconscionable.

In Vero Beach, an ethanol plant is scheduled to open in the summer of 2012 that will use organic waste material as a feedstock.  Company officials estimate that 380 construction and operation employees will be needed.  Two new cellulosic ethanol plants should be operational in Highlands County by 2013.  These plants will use varieties of energy cane, grasses and sorghum as feedstock.  In addition to construction and operation employees, local farmers will be growing the energy crops.  South Florida Community College is planning classes to train students either how to grow and harvest the feedstock or how to process it.  Pending permits, construction could start before the end of this year on a corn ethanol plant in Gibsonton.  The plant is said to be capable of producing 200 million gallons a year using a variety of corn not grown for human consumption.  Again, local farmers will get the contracts.

Many economists point to low demand as the reason the economy isn’t strengthening.  The Florida ethanol mandate creates demand in the energy sector or our economy, a significant market.  Furthermore, these ethanol entrepreneurs are beginning to move away from corn as the primary raw material.  Mr. Gaetz expressed concern that corn ethanol is now being imported into Florida from other states.  Growing a variety of ethanol feedstocks right here in Florida will provide new or additional markets for farmers and contribute to price stability.  Many renewable energy advocates agree that corn is not the ideal feedstock for ethanol.  However, unlike oil, when demand increases, you can grow more of it.

Without consistent government policy, businessmen are reluctant to make investment commitments. The Florida ethanol mandate has provided the confidence necessary to begin a new industry that can grow and provide major benefits for Florida.  If you dump the rule, businessmen will dump you.

Sam Kendall

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