Lost in the many pages of the failure of the stimulus package is the saga of the sunflower plant in Southwest Colorado.
It’s instructive to recall the fate of San Juan Biodiesel in light of the Obama administration’s recent meddling in the proposed Pinon Ridge uranium mill in western Colorado.
The Obama administration, as has been reported in these pages, is supposedly scrambling to undo that damage done to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment by undercutting the state’s process in issuing a radioactive-materials handling permit to Energy Fuels Inc.
Energy Fuels is proposing to spend about $150 million building the mill, which would provide a much-needed economic infusion to a part of the state that doesn’t see many of those things.
How things have changed in five years.
Back in 2007, when the Obama administration was flush with borrowed stimulus cash and looking for some place to buy votes, there was San Juan Biodiesel.
San Juan Biodiesel was an environmental dream for the green left. The company planned a 5 million-gallon per year biodiesel production facility in Dove Creek that was going to brew fuel from sunflowers grown by 41 farms in western Colorado and eastern Utah.
The project was to squeeze sunflower oil from 120 million pounds of sunflower seeds. That meant 100,000 to 120,000 acres would be needed for the promised 5 million gallons each year.
Figuring it charitably, at 5 million gallons per 100,000 acres, that means 1 million acres yields 50 million gallons of diesel. With its 66 million acres, Colorado could churn out about 3.3 trillion gallons of fuel a year. Assuming that we can flatten it.
The 3.3 trillion gallons sounds like a lot until we realize that the United States uses 400 million gallons of gasoline a day, so the Centennial State could, under better than optimum conditions, provide a little over a week’s worth of fuel for the nation. And Colorado, as we know, is a big square state.
The reason that San Juan Biodiesel failed is the Great Recession, so the official story goes.
The nuances of mathematics, of course, meant little when the Obama administration was passing out cash, so San Juan Biodiesel got a piece of the action, albeit a small one – nearly $300,000. Of course that money has come and gone, as has San Juan Biodiesel, along with more than $4 million.
The plant now sits empty near Dove Creek, farmers are struggling through a drought year and a recession and the siren song of “clean energy” still is echoing in the marble halls of Washington, D.C.
Energy Fuels Inc., meanwhile, is struggling to get its mill built against the wishes of the closest allies of the Obama administration, to say nothing of the Telluride-vacationing funders of the president’s re-election campaign.