The proposed trash-to-ethanol plant has produced little but speculation since the contract between developer Earl Powers and the Lake County Solid Waste Management District board was signed four years ago. Don't expect any jobs to be created in the near future, either.
Powers may have found a way to back out of the contract, possibly selling his stake to a consortium of local construction firms. Those companies are waiting to see whether a similar plant in Vero Beach, Fla., is successful.
But keep in mind that the plant there would first start with yard waste. There's a big difference between grass clippings and chicken bones. Only if the process is successful with yard waste would the next step to processing household trash be taken, and there's no guarantee that process will work on a large commercial scale, either, such as would be needed for Lake County trash.
We could be waiting a while to see whether that Florida plant is successful in producing ethanol from household trash that is acceptable for use in automobiles. It would probably take many more years before a Lake County plant could be operational. Adding to the uncertainty is a lack of site plans and specs – and the fact that the environmental permitting process has not even begun.
In the meantime, the problem of how best to dispose of the county's household trash — in a cost-effective, environmentally responsible manner — is left in limbo. This is no way to solve the problem.
Talk with the construction companies and agree to drop the plans for the ethanol plant, at least for now, and go in a different direction. Whatever other solution is reached, something else would be built, most likely, and construction jobs would be generated as a result.
Go back to the drawing board and request new proposals. Throw the trash-to-ethanol plan on the scrap heap. It's generating a lot of hot air, but the prospects of generating ethanol are distant, if ever.