BF Staff Archives




Florida Corporate Moves

Florida Corporate Moves

World’s Largest Cellulosic Ethanol Facility to be Built in Highlands County Highlands County, FL, soon will be home to the world’s largest facility to make biofuels from inedible plants, including grasses, according to an announcement from BP PLC and Verenium Corp. The British energy giant is investing $112.5 million in Verenium and received a 50% stake in licensing the company’s technology as part of the project. The new facility, which will cost an estimated $300 million, will be 25 times larger than Verenium’s pilot biofuels project with BP in Mermentau, LA, which was commissioned early this year and currently is the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol operation. Verenium, based in Cambridge, MA, said the Florida facility will make 36 millions of gallons of fuel a year and is aiming for a cost of $2 a gallon, roughly on par with gasoline. The plant will use Verenium’s specialty enzymes to turn renewable grasses grown adjacent to the plant site into cellulosic ethanol, the company said. The project has received a $7-million grant awarded under the Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commission’s $25-million “Farm to Fuel” initiative. The rapid move from a demonstration-scale refinery to a full-scale biofuels facility reflects the growing interest in cellulosic ethanol, which comes from breaking down plant material and turning it into ethanol that can be used to displace crude-oil-based fuels in cars and trucks. The joint venture between BP and Verenium also is planning to build a second full-scale facility on the Gulf Coast. Other oil giants, including Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are believed to be aggressively pursuing development of next-generation biofuels. The push for biofuels also is expected to get a big boost from the Economic Recovery stimulus bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. The bill allocates more than $12 billion to fund grants and loans for alternative energy projects. There has been increased interest in recent months on cellulosic ethanol, made from inedible grasses and leftovers from agricultural production, after the growing use of corn-based ethanol was blamed last year for using up crops and driving food costs higher. Verenium’s Louisiana plant uses crushed sugar-cane stalks, and the Florida facility will use grasses. The U.S. government mandates requiring big increases in the amounts of renewable fuels to be used in the nation’s gasoline tanks—at least 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2022, representing about 7% of total transportation-fuel consumption, up from a negligible amount today, according to industry analysts. Abengoa SA, a Spanish company, is building cellulosic ethanol […]


Tennessee Corporate Moves

Tennessee Corporate Moves

German Chemical Giant to Build $1-Billion Polysilicon Plant in Tennessee Wacker Chemie AG, the Munich-based chemical company, has announced plans to build a $1-billion polysilicon plant in Bradley County, Tennessee. The new chemical facility, expected to create more than 500 new jobs in the region, is the third mega-project landed by Tennessee in the past eight months. Earlier this year, Hemlock Semiconductor announced that it would invest $2.5 billion in a new semiconductor plant near Clarksville, TN, and last summer Volkswagon chose a site just north of Chattanooga for its return to car manufacturing in the U.S. The new Wacker plant will manufacture hyperpure polycrystalline silicon, a primary component used in the manufacture of solar panels and semiconductors. The development announcement was jointly made by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, Dr. Rudolph Staudigl, president and CEO of Wacker Chemie AG, and Dr. Ingomar Kovar, president of Wacker Chemical Corporation, Adrian, MI. “This announcement further enhances Tennessee’s growing reputation as an innovation center in the development and manufacture of clean energy technologies,” said Bredesen. “I appreciate Wacker Chemie’s investment in Tennessee and its recognition of the productivity of Tennessee workers, and I’m very pleased the company believes this is the best place to enhance its position in this growing economic sector.” “We expect polysilicon demand from the solar and semiconductor industries to further increase in the coming years,” said Dr. Staudigl. “Purchasing this site is an essential prerequisite to quickly build up additional production capacities outside the euro zone in line with projected market trends and growth in demand.” The facility will be located in southeastern Tennessee on a 550-acre greenfield site near the Hiwassee Industrial Park in the Charleston community of Bradley County. “Under Governor Bredesen’s leadership, we’ve developed a strategy for the creation of ‘green collar’ jobs in Tennessee,” said Kisber. “That strategy has resulted in more than $2.5 billion dollars in capital investment and over a thousand new jobs being announced in the past year and we truly believe Tennessee is well-positioned for the growth of a sustainable economy in the U.S.” In addition to the state’s strong business climate, Wacker officials cited Tennessee’s well-developed infrastructure and the cooperative partnership of state agencies, local government, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the local chamber of commerce. As part of its investment, Wacker will qualify for statutory incentives on the state and local level, including the FastTrack Infrastructure Development Program, the FastTrack Job Training Assistance Program and the Super Jobs Tax Credit. The strong […]



60 Seconds with Rick Sievertsen, VP of Client Solutions, Advantage IQ

60 Seconds with Rick Sievertsen, VP of Client Solutions, Advantage IQ

BF: When analyzing a company’s expenditures, in which utility charges can Advantage IQ find the most significant savings opportunities? RS: Focus on the areas where you have the greatest expense and hence the greatest opportunity for cost savings. If you spend the most on electricity, look closely at your electricity costs and consumption. If you have a high natural gas requirement, you may want to look more closely at your natural gas bills. Your type of business will determine where your greatest energy efficiency opportunities reside. An office building has the greatest opportunities in the areas of lighting and heating, ventilating and air conditioning. A restaurant has greater opportunity in the cooking area. A convenience store should look at the energy consumed by their freezer/refrigeration equipment. BF: What are common causes for overcharges by utility providers, and how can a company recover overpayments? RS: Meter malfunctions, being placed on a utility rate that is less than optimal, being billed for service for a facility that was closed or sold or receiving duplicate bills for the same facility or period are common errors found by Advantage IQ for our clients. Recovering utility billing errors requires that you identify the problem quickly and contact the utility provider to identify the problem as soon as possible. Comparing your monthly utility costs and consumption to prior periods is the best way to monitor your bills and identify errors. Identifying the problem prior to payment of the bill improves your chances of paying the correct amount. If you find an error after you have paid the bill, contacting the utility and documenting the error quickly will improve your chance of refund. Many utilities have limits on the amount of time for which a refund can be claimed. BF: What solutions can a company employ to reduce energy expenditures and become more sustainable? RS: Communicate with your employees about the impact energy has on the bottom line and enlist their support in cutting energy waste. Turn off lights when conference rooms, offices and restrooms are not in use and turn off office equipment when employees go home for the day. Utilizing building automation systems where available and not over-riding equipment designed to maximize energy efficiency are further ways to save. U.S. Energy Outlook In February, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced some short-term energy outlook projections. • U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to decline by at least 2.7% in 2009, triggering decreases in domestic energy consumption for all major fuels. Economic recovery is […]



Private hands, public money

Private hands, public money

The U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and Office of Thrift Supervision issued an unusual joint statement this week assuring the public that the government ”stands firmly behind the banking system during this period of financial strain.” The nation’s top financial overlords also went out of their way to declare forthrightly that the government’s ”capital assistance program” comes with the ”strong presumption” that ”banks should remain in private hands.” As Jon Lovitz’ famous ”liar” character used to say on Saturday Night Live: ”Yeah, that’s the ticket!” The government’s tepid assurances about the sanctity of the banking system presumably were designed to anesthetize the patient as our federal financial surgeons prepare to perform several life-saving amputations using a multi-trillion-dollar hack saw. The Treasury Department, which has invested more than $200 billion since September in a spectacularly ineffective effort to prop up Citigroup and AIG, has dropped all pretense of simply ”standing behind” these two dying, mismanaged behemoths. The government is now sitting on their chests, desperately performing CPR, as share prices for the twin basket cases rapidly head for penny-stock designation. By the end of this week, it is widely anticipated that Treasury will convert the preferred shares it secured in Citigroup and AIG into common stock, effectively increasing the public’s stake in both financial giants to at least 40 percent. Holding this stake below 50 percent will permit the government to avoid using the dreaded word — nationalization — while not quite giving it the power to fire the greedmeisters who have been running these fiscal conglomerates into the ground. Yeah, that’s the ticket! The government also is preparing to conduct a ”stress test” of the top 20 U.S. banks (each holding $100 billion or more in alleged assets), apparently to determine which of these illustrious institutions merit the AIG/Citi treatment. According to the government’s public explanation, these stress tests will measure how large banks would fare under extremely difficult financial conditions, such as high unemployment and negative growth for a prolonged period of time. The government tastefully did not specify what it means by ”prolonged period of time.” We know this is strictly a hypothetical scenario, but, just in case, we’ll ask the former Japanese finance minister to clarify this for us as soon as he sobers up. The big banking honchos aren’t buying the government’s cover story. Acccording to today’s Wall Street Journal, the large U.S. banks believe the stress tests are merely a prelude to the creation […]


FL Gov. Crist Announces Budget

FL Gov. Crist Announces Budget

Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday outlined his proposed $66.5 billion budget, which includes $4.7 billion in federal stimulus dollars. His recommendations include investments in education, workforce development and career training, transportation and energy conservation. The governor said his proposed 2009-10 budget will create or retain 314,590 jobs. Florida is slated to receive $12.2 billion of the $787 billion included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act over three years. Among Crist’s proposals: $31.2 billion in funding for all phases of education, including almost $1.8 billion of federal stimulus funds. $8.9 billion for economic development projects that create or retain 314,590 jobs. These jobs are in addition to the 206,000 Florida jobs expected to be created by the $12.2 billion pumped into Florida’s economy by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 over three state fiscal years. $5.1 billion to build and maintain the roads, bridges and public transportation facilities, which Crist said would create or retain an estimated 142,800 jobs throughout the state. An additional $1.4 billion provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will go toward shovel-ready projects that can be initiated within 180 days, creating or retaining an additional 24,200 jobs. $157.1 million for the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development, which he said will create or retain 43,291 jobs. $4.9 billion to maintain support for Florida’s increasing prison population and continue programs to reduce recidivism, prevent juvenile crime and keep violent criminals off the streets. An increase of $45 million for cash assistance program and food stamps, which provides temporary assistance to families and their children, to ensure funds are available for families and children critically impacted during these challenging times. $294 million for the Medicaid for the Aged and Disabled Program to restore 12 months of Medicaid health care coverage for 13,000 elderly and disabled individuals. $470 million for the Medically Needy Program to restore 12 months of Medicaid health care coverage for 21,000 individuals who have extremely high medical bills in relation to their annual income. $52 million for increased enrollment in the KidCare program to support an additional 46,000 children. Crist also called on the Legislature, once more, to quickly approve the 25-year compact he signed between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which he said would provide billions of dollars to Florida’s schools throughout the duration of the agreement. The agreement, signed in November 2007, would allow the tribe to install Las Vegas-style slot machines and card games in their casinos in exchange for $375 million […]