EDITORIAL: Wake up from trash-to-ethanol dream

2013-01-24T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Wake up from trash-to-ethanol dream nwitimes.com
January 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Once more, the Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board of Directors have learned that investors are holding back on funding the waste-to-ethanol project until more is known about the process. Surprised? We didn't think so.

The trash-to-ethanol dream has been just that -- a dream -- for several years now. What Lake County needs is reality.

Last week, the board gave the trash-to-ethanol proponents -- now on the verge of a second generation after developer Earl Powers apparently has given up and plans to sell out to a consortium of local construction firms -- more time to arrange for financing for a plant near Schneider.

Consortium representative Ed Cleveland said investors are hesitant to fund the project until a smaller plant in Vero Beach, Fla., shows it can produce commercial-grade ethanol fuel using the same process proposed for Lake County.

INEOS Bio, the company that owns the trash-to-ethanol process, plans to announce sometime this quarter that it has achieved that milestone, Cleveland said. But the company has made similar pronouncements before.

There is a difference between producing ethanol from yard waste and household waste, too. INEOS has yet to obtain an environmental permit for its Florida facility to produce ethanol from municipal solid waste, Cleveland said.

"I would like to see something happening at a faster place," board member David Nellans, a Munster Town Council member, said. "I'm disappointed they don't have the (municipal solid waste) permit already in hand."

If the Lake County trash-to-ethanol facility is finally to be built someday, permits would need to be obtained, and that would entail writing the rules governing those permits as well. This prospect appears to be a long way off as the local project has yet to apply for permits, secure financing or even purchase land upon which to build.

How much longer do the promoters of this project need to arrange financing? They were given more than four years, and we still have nothing to show for it. How much longer must Lake County residents wait for a real solution on environmentally responsible and cost-effective disposal of household waste?

The solid waste management board should finally give up on the current trash-to-ethanol proposal and seek new proposals. It's time to wake up from the trash-to-ethanol dream.

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