$91 Million Taxpayer Dollars to Fund Louisiana Biofuel Plant

- Cole Avery, October 3, 2014, The Times-Picayune

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"296","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"346","style":"width: 347px; height: 346px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;","width":"347"}}]]Tom Vilsack, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced a $91 million loan guarantee from the federal government to help build a biomass fuel plant in Louisiana.

Vilsack traveled to Baton Rouge on Friday to make the announcement. He said the plant could have a "profound impact" on agriculture in America.

The plant is being built by Cool Energy in Alexandria. It under construction and is expected to be complete in 2015 with production to begin in 2016. The plant will produce an expected 150-175 direct or indirect jobs.

"This is going to provide a new market opportunity for pine chips and other renewable forest material, which will help the forestry industry in the state," Vilsack said. "This biochar soil nutrient they're able to produce is really remarkable opportunity for us not only to learn from your experience but to take this and extend the notion of biochar."

The 10,000 gallon plant will use biomass, such as wood chips and corn husks, to make advanced fuels, gas and jet fuels, which Vilsack said could reduce America's imports from politically volatile parts of the world.

The result of that process, the biochar, can then be used for soil supplements and feed additives.

Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said Louisiana is the ideal state to capitalize on the biofuel industry because of the state's resources, ties to the oil and gas industry and access to rail and ports to ship products.

"When companies look for X marks the spot, it makes sense to have it here," Strain said. "We're a resource rich state, and the worldwide economy of the next 50 years is primarily dependent on the availability of resources."

Cool Plant CEO Howard Janzen said the goal is to build several small plants like the future Alexandria plant in other parts of the state in the future.

Rural Louisiana is made up of more than 28,000 cars across 7.9 million acres.Vilsack said the loan is funded by the Biorefinery Assistance Program. 

The USDA has invested $22 billion in Louisiana from fiscal years 2009-2013. Rural Louisiana is made up of more than 28,000 cars across 7.9 million acres.

The farm industry is one of the largest industries in the nation, accounting for one out of every 12 jobs.