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Government dollars help turn farm country green

Whenever energy prices rise, the government promises to subsidize oil alternatives," said Jerry Taylor, an energy expert with the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that opposes government intervention in economies. "It's flushing money down the toilet."

WASHINGTON - Larry McCants' plan to bring an ethanol plant, a biomass/coal electrical plant, biodiesel production and a wind farm to Goodland promises to bring cleaner air, greater energy self-sufficiency and hundreds of jobs to the western Kansas town.

That would be hard to pull off without federal aid, the local banker said. "You need incentives to give you some hope you'll get a return on your investment."

High energy costs, frustration over foreign oil dependence and concern over global warming are making Washington friendlier to projects like the Goodland Energy Center and the new 100-million-gallon-a-year ethanolplant Abengoa Bioenergy is building near its existing plant in Colwich.

That means opportunities for Kansas energy producers, as projects from wind farms to clean-coal plants seek incentives from Washington that will help them profit while saving the planet and stoking local economies.

"In addition to being the breadbasket of the world, we're also well on the way to being the nation's filling station thanks to our production of ethanol," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said at a renewable fuels meeting in Kansas City.

Critics question what they consider wasteful spending.

"Whenever... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

WASHINGTON - Larry McCants' plan to bring an ethanol plant, a biomass/coal electrical plant, biodiesel production and a wind farm to Goodland promises to bring cleaner air, greater energy self-sufficiency and hundreds of jobs to the western Kansas town.

That would be hard to pull off without federal aid, the local banker said. "You need incentives to give you some hope you'll get a return on your investment."

High energy costs, frustration over foreign oil dependence and concern over global warming are making Washington friendlier to projects like the Goodland Energy Center and the new 100-million-gallon-a-year ethanolplant Abengoa Bioenergy is building near its existing plant in Colwich.

That means opportunities for Kansas energy producers, as projects from wind farms to clean-coal plants seek incentives from Washington that will help them profit while saving the planet and stoking local economies.

"In addition to being the breadbasket of the world, we're also well on the way to being the nation's filling station thanks to our production of ethanol," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said at a renewable fuels meeting in Kansas City.

Critics question what they consider wasteful spending.

"Whenever energy prices rise, the government promises to subsidize oil alternatives," said Jerry Taylor, an energy expert with the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that opposes government intervention in economies.

"It's flushing money down the toilet."

As pump prices continue to climb and Americans sweat through another record-hot summer, cleaner, home-grown alternatives are gaining ground in Washington.

Federal and state tax incentives are already spurring production of alternatives. Ethanol production has gone from 1.8 billion gallons in 2001 to more than 4 billion last year. A federal mandate requires 7.5 billion gallons be used in motor vehicles by 2012.

Last week, the U.S. Agriculture Department issued a paper arguing for increased biofuels requirements for motorists and extending ethanol and biodiesel tax breaks, along with new incentives for solar and wind energy.

On Capitol Hill, a "25x25" initiative to get one-quarter of American energy from renewable fuels by 2025 has broad support across the Midwest -- Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, signed on, along with the entire South Dakota delegation, two-thirds of North Dakota's, and several lawmakers from other farm states.

The Kansas Legislature has also signed on, as has Sebelius, who chairs the Governors' Ethanol Coalition.

The greener shade of government has alternative energy developers excited.

"Right now the interest is just so much broader," said Douglas Durante, executive director of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, a national ethanol advocacy group. "It's not just farmers in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Minnesota."

Taylor said that attitude distorts what he said is really going on: a massive tax giveaway to rural states to support industries that often aren't the best way to solve the problems.

Global warming and freedom from Middle East oil imports and high gasoline prices "are rationales to advance policies the renewable fuels lobby would want anyway," he said.

If the government truly wanted to promote a cooler, self-sufficient America, it would encourage more conservation or tax greenhouse-gas emissions regardless of what technology is used, he said. That would make businesses come up with solutions on their own, rather than send tax dollars to industries that may or may not develop them on their own, he said.

"Whenever energy prices go up, the government promises to get us off oil with pixie dust and magic money for oil alternatives," he said. "It wasn't the best policy in the 1970s, and it isn't the best policy now."

McCants disagrees, and as evidence, he offers his town.

When the Goodland energy complex is done, it will provide all the electric power for the town of 5,000 and a new market for area farmers.

"We're doing this for our community," he said.


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Reach Alan Bjerga at 202-383-6055 or abjerga@mcclatchydc.com

 


Source: http://www.kansas.com/mld/k...

AUG 13 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/3944-government-dollars-help-turn-farm-country-green
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