Mountain Top ethanol plant will be one of five proposed in Pennsylvania

Mountain Top ethanol plant will be one of five proposed in Pennsylvania

Gov. Ed Rendell made a rare appearance in August at a picnic in a small town tucked in the Central Pennsylvania mountains.

While there, the governor threw his support behind a proposed ethanol plant in Clearfield County, promising it would be the first in the Pennsylvania.

Across the state, developers are touting ethanol plants as a source of clean energy and good-paying jobs. Some were met with community resistance, while others welcomed the potential economic boost.

Mountain Top would host one of five potential ethanol plants in the state, should its developers decide to move forward with the plans.

Rendell has proposed an initiative that would require the state to replace 900 million gallons of transportation fuel with domestically produced renewable fuels by 2017. The plan, which has not been approved by legislators yet ”” would create an increased demand for fuels like ethanol which are mixed with gasoline.

Ethanol is mixed with gasoline in Philadelphia and the outlying areas to meet federal air quality requirements for large urban areas. Currently, 35 percent of U.S. motor fuels are an ethanol blend, according to a 2006 study by LECG LLC., a California-based consulting group.

Ethanol is made, generally, from large amounts of corn and water, similar to the process to make grain alcohol, said Kurt Knaus, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Right now, all the ethanol mixed with gasoline here is currently being imported from the Midwest. Making the product in state would provide an economic boom and would help the state lessen its dependence on foreign oil, said Tom Tuffey, director of the PennFuture Center for Energy, Enterprise and the Environment in Philadelphia.

”This is classic supply and demand,” Tuffey said. ”As the demand grows ”” and our concern about foreign fuel ”” then it makes sense to shift the supply closer to the demand.”

There are problems with ethanol production. It takes huge amounts of corn and water to produce ethanol, which have ripple impacts on others who need these resources. More than 1.6 million gallons could be used daily at the local plant, if it is similar in size to other proposed in the state.

Increased demand for corn has driven up prices, which could mean costlier meat for consumers. Earlier this month, Tyson Foods blamed increased demand from ethanol producers for driving up the cost of its meat, as the demand also drives up fodder costs.

Plans for ethanol plants in Franklin, Lancaster and Crawford counties have been scrapped, some for zoning issues or lack of community support.

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