April 26, 2018

Energy Sources

Fueling An Interest

A Tampa businessman aims to boost Florida's use of ethanol as an alternative fuel.

Amy Keller | 10/1/2005
While Florida ranks third in the nation in gasoline consumption, it's one of only 14 states where drivers can't choose a cleaner-burning and cheaper mix of gasoline and ethanol, a grain alcohol.

For Bradley Krohn, a businessman who's a former scientist for Monsanto, that fact represents a "tremendous market opportunity." Along with several associates, Krohn aims to eventually build three to five refineries in and around southwest Florida to produce ethanol.

KEY INGREDIENT: Bradley Krohn says his Port Manatee refinery would create approximately 40 jobs paying an average salary of about $52,500.In August, the Manatee County Port Authority approved a lease option that will allow Krohn's Tampa-based US EnviroFuels to build an ethanol refinery at Port Manatee. Krohn is hoping to produce an estimated 40 million gallons of ethanol annually there. The company is also considering building a plant at the Port of Tampa.

Krohn says the Gulf Coast is attractive because 100% of Florida's gasoline comes in through its port system; the gateway would be convenient for petroleum companies, which purchase ethanol and blend it with gasoline at their storage terminals. The resulting mix -- a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline called E10 -- is then sold on the retail market as "oxygenated fuel" or "octane-enhanced" gasoline for use in automobiles.

Krohn is counting on getting a big boost from a federal energy bill recently signed into law. The law contains a "Renewable Fuels Standard" that the American Coalition for Ethanol predicts will double U.S. demand for ethanol to 7.5 billion gallons
annually by 2012.

Under the new law, the Environmental Protection Agency will issue rules requiring refineries, blenders, distributors and importers to integrate certain levels of ethanol and biodiesel into the nation's fuel supply by certain dates. Ethanol is also proving to be a more popular alternative to another widely used fuel oxygenate, methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE, which has been shown to cause cancer. Many states are moving to ban MTBE.

Not everyone is sold on ethanol. The environmental group ManaSota-88 has raised questions about the impact that U.S. EnviroFuels' proposed refinery would have on local water supplies and air quality. The group has also pointed to a controversial 2003 study by Cornell University professor David Pimentel, which concludes that ethanol production does not provide a net energy balance. "Ethanol has only two-thirds the energy that a gallon of gasoline has, and it takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than you get," Pimentel says. He also quarrels with government support for ethanol makers: "We're subsidizing it to the tune of $3 billion," Pimentel says.

Those subsidies are growing. The new energy law redefines who qualifies as a "small ethanol producer," making a federal tax credit more widely available.

Tags: Southwest, Tampa Bay, Energy & Utilities

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