Thomas Lane: Paying for biomass


Published: Friday, October 25, 2013 at 4:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 25, 2013 at 4:11 p.m.

The tax-paying masses must inevitably pay for government’s messes.

Gasoline tax receipts, primary revenue source for building and maintaining roads, are down and trending lower as Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements increase. Alachua County’s road-revenue deficit is well documented and experienced daily by drivers who encounter permanent potholes and roads in disrepair.

Which brings the discussion yet again to the biomass plant.

Deerhaven – Gainesville Regional Utilities’ primary power-generating facility – is serviced by underground conduits for natural gas, a fuel available in large supply at a reasonable price.

A dedicated rail road track also services Deerhaven such that coal – another fuel available in abundance – can be delivered without use of paved roads.

Not only are both fuels readily available, neither requires a single mile of local roadway, and neither contribute a single pothole to already over-used highways.

To feed the biomass plant, burnable cellulose – primarily trees and wood-waste – must be trucked in. Daily. Many loads each day. In big trucks.

It means increased heavy use of our roads. Increased traffic as deliveries will come from all direction. All this when efficient delivery of cheap and abundant fuel was already in place. Not to mention noise and odor and a new incentive to cut down every tree in sight.

That grown people envisioned such a fiasco – apparently took steps to eliminate voices of dissent – and “managed” this project to completion is incredible.

What a huge, expensive, intrusive, road-damaging, financially-threatening mess. And if I correctly understand what has been reported in The Sun, GRU does not own the facility, but is nevertheless obligated to buy all the electricity it is capable of producing.

GRU customers – already paying utility rates among the state’s highest – have paid a higher fuel adjustment charge in anticipation of increased biomass plant costs, and are on notice for even higher rates.

From the consumer’s pew this entire deal appears ill-conceived and illogical, and looks to threaten the GRU cash-cow which contributes $30 million per year to local government budgets. When taxpayers are required to replace that revenue – lost to biomass obligations – just imagine the necessary ad valorem millage rate.

Who agreed to this deal? What is the rationale? Where is the logic?

Who continually doubled-down on such a flawed strategy?

Will anyone ever be held accountable? Who will assume leadership and drive this entire episode into the sunshine?

Biomass. Biomess. Guess who pays?

Thomas Lane lives in Gainesville.

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