A Bright Promise and Livestock Feed – Michigan Capitol Confidential


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After receiving millions from taxpayers, Alpena biogas refinery now manufactures a livestock ingredient

When it launched in 2009, an operation called Alpena Prototype Biorefinery was hailed by Governor Jennifer Granholm, the federal government and managers of the corporate social arm of the Michigan State government as the future of energy. green.

The plant was still in existence as of February 2021, according to various reports, but it looks a long way from helping Michigan become, in Granholm’s words, “the world capital of alternative energies. “

The plant has received millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to produce power from unconventional sources. But instead it makes molasses from wood to feed livestock, according to the latest reports from 2021.

Understanding how a project born in the midst of promises to become a source of energy turned into a producer of an obscure agricultural product is no easy task.

Sporadic reports in local media indicate that the original company has been sold to new owners. And according to The Alpena News, the city is seeking to recover taxes owed by the original owner, called American Process Inc. The company also in default on a grant agreement with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the social arm of the state.

A media report says that 33 jobs were created through taxpayer grants, but in 2015 the company suspended operations and ceased producing ethanol. The factory reopened in March 2016 and started producing wood molasses. The company broke its deal with the state when it stopped producing ethanol, according to Alpena news, and thus lost its tax exemption agreement with the MEDC.

The local newspaper also reported that the Alpena refinery was bought by GranBio, a Brazilian company. As of February 2021, the City of Alpena was still claiming over $ 800,000 in back taxes from current and previous owners, dating back to 2016.

Alpena City Manager Rachel Smolinski did not return an email asking her about the status of the biorefinery.

The Alpena Biorefinery isn’t the only renewable energy program in Michigan to be launched on a wave of promises and publicity, and then fizzle out when the promises aren’t kept.

“We continue to diversify Michigan’s economy through the development of green energy technologies,” Granholm said in announcing that the area around the Alpena facility has been designated a tax-exempt Renewable Energy Renaissance Zone. The designation allowed the company “to operate without virtually all state and local taxes for 15 years,” according to the MEDC.

Companies that receive the designation have often received multiple grants, and this project was no exception.

American Process, Inc., the original owner of the refinery, was awarded $ 4 million by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in 2009, and $ 22 million by the US Department of Energy as part of the Obama administration’s stimulus package.

“This grant, in support of one of our energy centers of excellence, will create 160 jobs in the Alpena area and strengthen Michigan’s efforts to be a leader in the development of the next generation of biofuels,” said Granholm in 2009.

Greg Main, President and CEO of MEDC, also said in 2009, “The development and exploitation of green energy sources in Michigan is essential to ensure a strong economic future. “

When Granholm attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the plant, she said, “We are here today to celebrate that Alpena has become a center of excellence in clean energy. This plant is not only good for Alpena, it is good because it offers great hope for the great future of energy recovery from waste.

the US Department of Energy also touted the promises in a statement that said, “Going forward, the Alpena biorefinery may also be hired by other innovators to assess emerging conversion technologies for the growing US bioindustry. The ministry has not updated the information on its website to reflect the company’s current activities in producing feed.


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