Letter To The Editor — Lenoir City reader protests ethanol plant


Dear Editor:

Headline banners sell ethanol, “Clean Air,” “Ethanol, good for environment,” “Good for the economy – buy Tennessee corn.”

But, what about the rest of the story, real people and adding more air pollution to communities under siege with too much air pollution already? At last count, several bills promote ethanol to the General Assembly with supporters like legislators Jeff Miller, Don McLeary, Tim Burchett, Jamie Hagood, Joe Armstrong and Russell Johnson.

One such bill introduced by Rep. Johnson requires a 5 percent ethanol blend in every gas tank effective July 1, 2005. But, there are no plans to require Tennessee’s only ethanol plant located in Loudon County, Johnson’s hometown district, to use thermal oxidizers to curb toxic air emissions.

The EPA has identified ethanol plants as significant air polluters and deals have been reached to curtail harmful toxic emissions, but not in this case.

Citizens have long complained about the sickening sweet, pungent odors that travel miles from the AE Staley (Loudon plant).

British owned and globally known Tate & Lyle is a top producer of ethanol and high fructose corn syrup. Archer Daniel Midland, agri-giant ethanol producer is a large stockholder of Tate & Lyle, parent company of AE Staley. Currently, Tate & Lyle/Staley will joint venture with DuPont Chemical Co. on a new industrial bio-based polymer. This new process is expected to add 35 tons per year of air pollutants, 7 tons identified as ammonia. DuPont will not identify the composition of the remaining 28 tons of pollutants.

A well-respected Loudon pediatrician has repeatedly testified of an increase in respiratory problems with children patients. A grassroots citizens group, Clean Air Friends-Clean Air Kids, Inc. held a drive and collected over 2,600 names to petition Gov. (Phil) Bredesen and Betsy Child, TDEC commissioner for relief. Citizens voiced concerns about respiratory, and catastrophic diseases and worries about sick children. Local, state and federal officials and plant owners appear indifferent to concerns.

Special interest groups lobby for the introduction of ethanol bills under the guise of cleaning the air that we must breathe to require use of an inefficient ethanol grade of fuel. Another bill proposes to give away some $6 million in gasoline taxes. Ethanol tax incentives have raided the Federal Highway Trust Fund of $7.1 billion since 1979 bestowed to big agribusiness. A loss of billions of tax dollars amount to highway robbery of roads and bridges in need of expansion and repair and reduced highway safety. The General Accounting Office, concluded ethanol subsidies have not paid off in reducing U.S. dependence on oil imports.

Experts believe ethanol actually contributes to ozone and smog formation, especially when vehicles use it as the 10 percentethanol, 90 percent gasoline blend. Studies show a 10 percent mix of ethanol and gasoline would put more chemical contributors to smog into the atmosphere than gasoline alone and suggest a 10 percent blend is the worst possible combination. Not until the ethanol portion of the fuel mixture approached 80 percent did it fall below the ozone contribution potential of standard gasoline.

The Loudon (Staley/Tate & Lyle) plant purportedly uses 700 tons of coal per day. Adding yet to more air pollution, toxic diesel emissions since ethanol must travel by rail, truck, or barge. Experts believe it takes more energy to make ethanol than is saved using it. A Sidney newspaper reported, up to a third of Australia’s 10 million cars will not operate satisfactorily on 10 percent ethanol. Industry sources added, 30 to 40 percent of cars cannot perform satisfactorily or may even be damaged with E10.

Twenty-two years ago, farmers were lead to believe AE Staley would buy Tennessee corn. Sadly, some mortgaged farms to later learn corn would instead be bought from the Midwest. Big money, special interest and politicians promoting ethanol should not come at the expense, health, and future of its children and residents of Loudon County and West Knoxville; this is not a fair trade off, especially when ethanol will do little good to reduce air pollution. One thing’s for sure, corn-fed politics will cost taxpayers a bundle!

Pat Hunter,

Lenoir City