`AINA KOA PONO asked the state Legislature yesterday to support a 15 percent tax credit for building a refinery here in Pahala. Chris Eldridge, who also owns American Mattress stores around the state, is an `Aina Koa Pono partner. His testimony for yesterday’s hearing describes former sugar lands, now largely used by the cattle industry between Pahala and Na`alehu, as “fallow,” and says that using land for a biofuels farm and factory would help fend off a rise in fuel prices statewide. “Building agriculturally based biofuel refineries in Hawai`i has the potential to reinvigorate Hawai`i’s struggling agriculture industry while also helping to meet the renewable energy goals of Hawai`i’s Clean Energy Initiative,” said Eldridge.
THE NUMBER OF JOBS projected for the proposed biofuels refinery and farm here in Ka`u was increased in the testimony that asks for the 15 percent tax credit. Eldridge said that in addition to 300 construction jobs over two years to build the refinery in Pahala, `Aina Koa Pono now projects 150 to 200 jobs created for the 20 to 30 years that the biofuel refinery would be in operation.
HE ALSO SUGGESTED that the tax break bill be amended to provide tax credits within 60 days after the refinery becomes operational. “We cannot emphasize enough the need for these incentives to attract private capital to invest in these projects for Hawai`i.
Rentech (AMEX:RTK) and partner Clearfuels Technology will get $23 million in grants to add a gasifier to existing facilities. This will help in the process of turning woody biomass into diesel and jet fuel. Other partners in the Aiea, Hawaii plant include construction company URS Corporation (NYSE:URS) and utility Hawaiian Electric (NYSE:HE).
The United States recently moved one step closer to energy independence this past Friday as the Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, announced the first wave of grant money towards biofuel. While the corn ethanol dream in America is pretty much over, as many of the main producers have filed for bankruptcy or had their assets folded into more traditional oil companies (such as VeraSun into refiner Valero (NYSE:VLO)), biofuel from non-feed stocks or from waste are another matter.