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Ethanol plant would work on many levels

July 03, 2005

By Robert Mills

I have been following the ethanol controversy over the past few months. Frankly, I am stunned by the rhetoric swarming around this issue and the opinions being expressed about it. Let's review the fundamentals about this proposition:

-- The ethanol facility is, first and foremost, an environmentally sound proposition. Contrary to what you may have been reading, ethanol (alcohol) is a natural product and the process by which it is produced is natural, too.

If you leave a piece of fruit to its own devices you will eventually have rotten fruit and some alcohol. How awful! There are few other processes that are as natural and simple as this one, and no one

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should live in fear of it or be convinced to do so. The raw materials that Penn-Mar will be using are corn, water and yeast.

The by-products of this process are alcohol (a fuel), carbon dioxide (plant food and a viable raw material for other industry) and dried corn mash or distillers grain (cow food). What is there to fear in this mix?

Don't forget that this facility is going to be located on the Letterkenny grounds, a Superfund toxic waste site. What better use of this undesirable piece of ground could there be than a natural fuel-manufacturing facility? It's nearly downright ideal.

-- This proposal is an extremely economically sound proposition. This facility will add as many as 60 manufacturing jobs to this region (yes, the sought-after manufacturing kind).

With so many manufacturing companies relocating southward, any viable proposal to create one here should be welcome news to everyone. Don't forget that Pennsylvania ranks 48th in the nation in job creation. That's the wrong end of that spectrum.

Here is a chance to improve our collective lot - let's not blow it. The $2.4 million payroll will help the communities in innumerable ways and will bolster our tax revenues. Do I hear a win-win, anyone? The fuel will reduce our dependency on foreign and domestic oil and will absolutely reduce pollution derived from cars.

I've heard the line that there is no benefit to blending fuels because of the 10 percent reduction in mileage. But let's remember that the blends contain as much as 30 percent ethanol. Do the math: That is roughly a 20 percent gain in our favor.

And don't forget that this facility will be a customer and a supplier to our local farmers that will help them remain viable businesses in our communities. How many more farm fields have to turn into housing developments before we do something to help the farmer's business? Supporting a new customer for them is one of the biggest ways we can help them be more profitable and viable in the long term.

Remember that the farms help maintain our own property values by keeping this area desirable.

-- Lastly, this proposition is industrially sound. Based on what I've read, this technology is advanced enough to ensure that the natural emissions are controlled and the neighborhood is protected. Penn-Mar plans to use the latest equipment utilizing the latest technology. In my book that makes them a desirable neighbor producing this desirable product.

It isn't hard to realize that this proposition is environmentally, economically and industrially sound. This high-tech facility will produce a valuable resource for our nation, will produce new jobs, will enhance our local economy, will help reduce pollution and will help our local farmers.

In summary, this helps us all. None of these facts are in dispute and should help anyone realize that this proposal should be embraced by our community and should give one pause to wonder what could possibly motivate someone to fight such a beneficial proposition.

Robert Mills is a resident of Chambersburg, Pa.

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