Michigan’s Alpena Biorefinery announced that it is taking a “sabbatical,” after drinking $22 million of taxpayers’ stimulus cash and after consuming unknown amounts of additional and indirect taxpayer funding—all just to show it could convert wood chips into pure alcohol.
The company’s consumption of federal economic stimulant was enabled by Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
In effect, her home-state company was created to convert the short-term 2009 economic stimulus into alcohol.
That’s a sharp reversal from taxpayers’ long-standing practice of converting alcohol into a temporary stimulus.
But taxpayers are still left with the hangover, while Alpena takes its “sabbatical.” That’s because the taxpayers and their children must pay off the $22 million in stimulus funding that was consumed by Alpena’s wood-chips-to-alcohol-to-hangover process.
The company was forced into fiscal sobriety by the arrival of cheaper fuels, delivered by the U.S. oil-fracking industry. “In August 2015, due to the low ethanol price environment, the small size of the pre-commercial facility, and the limited feedstock supply, API’s management made the decision to temporarily suspend ethanol production at the Alpena Biorefinery,” according to a company statement.
Nonetheless, Alpena has plenty of company in the federal version of spending rehab. Many of the programs funded by the Department of Energy’s scandal-ridden “sustainable energy grants” are now comatose, or worse.
The $90 billion stimulus money for energy projects was trucked into a huge corner of the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, introduced in the first month of Obama’s presidency. The money was supposedly intended to fund “strategic clean energy investments intended to promote job creation and promote deployment of low-carbon technologies.”
Ryan Alexander, president of the non-partisan ‘Taxpayers for Common Sense’’ told the Washington Post about the hundreds of taxpayer-funded renewable energy companies that imploded: “What’s so troubling is that politics seems to be the dominant factor.” He added, “They’re not talking about what the taxpayers are losing; they’re not talking about the failure of the technology, whether we bet on the wrong horse. What they are talking about is ‘How are we going to manage this politically?’”
A Washington Post investigative report found that the Obama administration “gave easy access to venture capitalists with stakes in some of the companies backed by the administration, the records show. Many of those investors had given to Obama’s 2008 campaign. Some took jobs in the administration and helped manage the clean-
Michigan is a farm state that produces lots of corn, but its got at least $22 million in cash from the U.S. Department of Energy to build and operate the wood-to-alcohol facility. The start-up company parent, American Process Inc., was backed by such national household names as Decorative Panels Inc., Devere Construction Companies, and Acuitas and Green Tech America.
The company never met its employment target. It was approved on the projection that it would create a total of 31 jobs, at the egregious cost of $709,677.42 per position, according to the federal oversight Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy called Energy.Gov.
Alpena Biorefinery also appears to have gained much funding via Congress’ annual farm bill. Renewable energy spending under the Farm Bills for fiscal years 2008-12 was $647 million. Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office reveal that the spending on subsidized purchases of renewable fuels during the period was actually a total $1.9 billion, over $1.3 billion over budget.
Under Stabenow’s tenure, the federal government established a “Grow it Here, Make it Here” program to supposedly “advance Michigan’s emerging bio-based manufacturing industry… bio-based manufacturing uses agriculture goods to make value-added products and is an industry poised to grow and create jobs in Michigan.”
Alpena Biorefinery may have announced they are taking a “sabbatical” with hopes that the mysterious little company can go away quietly, but with Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, they are undoubtedly going to launch election year investigations to tally up just how big a hit taxpayers will take in the latest renewable energy enterprise to implode.