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Posted on  

March 19, 2003

Interest grows in building Louisiana ethanol plant

Louisiana State Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom said he's got about a dozen serious bites from contractors on the idea of building an ethanol plant in the Jefferson Davis Parish town of Lacassine, between Jennings and Lake Charles.

The push to build the plant, called the Louisiana Green Fuels Project, still must clear several hurdles in the next month to make Odom's August 2004 timetable for construction.

He said he's encouraged by the amount of interest.

Ethanol, which is gaining favor nationally as an octane booster for gasoline, can be made from several types of row crops, including corn, sugar cane and rice.

The question is whether it can be done profitably enough to pay off a state bond Odom hopes to get approved to build the plant.

Odom said he needs a proposal from one of the plant construction contractors that gets the job done for close to $100 million, or the plan is likely not going to work.

The Agriculture Department has begun interviewing contractors and will do so through April 7.

After that, the Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority, an agency that finds money for farm projects, plans to pick a proposal April 16.

Odom said he intends to take a bond proposal before the state Bond Commission the next day.

That's if contractors can get the job done for the right price, Odom said.

Odom said he plans to have the proceeds of the plant pay off the bonds, but it's also backed by the Agriculture Department's cut of state gambling revenue.

If the "Green Fuels" plan gets off the ground, Odom said it could mean 100 jobs and $60 million a year to the Lacassine area.

That would help the southwest Louisiana economy, as well as farmers across the state hit by low crop prices and other farm economy problems, he said.

Odom said he also wants to make sure the plant doesn't have any environmental problems. "We'll have an environmental consultant that has to be on board," he said.

Capitol news bureau



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