Florida ethanol

Follow Us On

Solar Energy Articles
Hybrid Car Articles
Ethanol Articles
Alternative Fuel Articles
Oil Articles
Wind Energy Articles
Gas Articles
Energy Articles
Electric Articles
Environmental Articles
Energy Resource Articles

Ethanol in Florida

State seeks biofuels as energy solution
By Phil Davis

TAMPA -- Bradley Krohn met with skepticism two years ago when he announced plans to build Florida's first ethanol production plant.

Critics said the fuel additive would not fly outside the Midwest's Corn Belt.

Now Krohn's company, U.S. EnviroFuels LLC, is at the heart of a rush by Florida politicians to embrace ethanol as the gas additive that will transform the Sunshine State from a vulnerable fuel importer to self-reliant fuel producer.

One recent June afternoon, Krohn stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Gov. Jeb Bush, who described Krohn's company as a key player in the state's $100 million initiative to fix Florida's energy woes. A few weeks earlier, Krohn was among several alternative fuel entrepreneurs praised by U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.

Bush thinks Florida could be competitive with the Midwest because of its sugarcane production and other crops.

"Corn grows one crop a year in the Midwest" annually, he said. "Here we can grow two and sometimes three, depending on the crop."

The state uses about 7.5 billion gallons of gas each year. Krohn said Floridians could consume up to 750 million gallons of ethanol if stations statewide sold a 90 percent gasoline-10 percent ethanol mixture. Nationally, 91 plants produced 4 billion gallons of ethanol last year -- none of it in Florida, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

U.S. EnviroFuel's $80 million Port of Tampa plant will be able to produce about 40 million gallons of ethanol a year. Construction is set to begin in August. The company plans to build a second facility farther south in Port Manatee. Jacksonville-based Gate Petroleum also has announced plans to build an ethanol plant in North Florida.

"We'd have to build 20 of these plants to satisfy the market potential," said Krohn, who ran a bioenergy program in Missouri before forming U.S. EnviroFuels with two partners in 2003. "There is no ethanol being blended today in Florida, so we identified Florida as a tremendous market opportunity."

Ethanol is as old as the automobile. Henry Ford's Model T could be modified to run on it, a U.S. Department of Energy report said. But only recently has production of the corn- and sugar-based gas additive generated interest outside the Midwest.

Critics warn biofuel production is energy- and water-intensive and that the nation's farms could never supply enough produce to meet current fuel demands.

But President Bush pumped up ethanol in his State of the Union address. Billionaire Bill Gates bought into it with a significant investment in a California ethanol company in April. Last week, U.S. automakers pledged to double production of flexible-fuel vehicles by 2010. The Department of Energy says the fuel additive could knock up to 60 cents off a gallon of gas by 2015.

Both the president and Gov. Bush praise ethanol as a way to wean Americans from their dependence on foreign oil. Gov. Bush said the additive can stretch Florida's fuel supply if a hurricane cuts off the state's gasoline supply. Florida imports almost all of its gasoline by ship.

What could really push Florida into the forefront is a breakthrough in cellulosic biomass ethanol production, distilling citrus pulp, yard waste, peanut shells and other natural waste into a fuel additive. The process now is unproven and expensive.

"We're eagerly working on this problem," said Lonnie Ingram, a biofuels researcher and professor of microbiology at the University of Florida. "It's a technology that's not up and running in any state."

Ingram is trying to raise $20 million to build a prototype biomass ethanol plant. The plant would produce 1 million to 2 million gallons of biomass ethanol a year.

"Florida has the opportunity to be the No. 1 producer of alternative fuels," Ingram said. "We're the biggest biomass producer in the country. ..."