Peter Harriman reports in that Sioux Falls paper that the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe is working on a deal to turn trash into treasure—i.e., energy. EcoTech Fuels, a division of Victory Circle Fuels, wants to build a $39-million plant to convert landfill waste into Torqazine®, a fuel you can burn straight in a flex-fuel car or add to ethanol and gasoline for higher octane.
We should note that Victory Circle Fuels was proposing a similar plan to Grand Forks, North Dakota, back in October 2008. A local reporter expressed some skepticism (which reporters are paid to do). My morning Googling hasn't turned up any news of follow-through on that project. The only active projects I see on EcoTech Fuels' website are three plants by sister company PPE converting animal waste into methanol and bio-diesel. (Two of the three get waste from Smithfield Foods operations in Utah and Texas.) The Crow Creek proposal may thus be the North Dakota project moved south.
If the project is feasible, it appears to offer some benefits for the tribe and the surrounding region. The EcoFuels folks see natural synergy with nearby ethanol producers. Their plant would take 100 tons of waste out of landfills each day—that's about 25% of the permitted annual capacity of the nearby Tri-County Landfill outside Pukwana. EcoTech Fuels tells the tribe they'd get 40 permanent jobs and 10% of the profits.
10% of the profits—that last part sounds all right. I wonder: has Hyperion offered Elk Point and Union County any sort of profit-sharing in its proposed oil refinery?
Harriman takes time to check with Ed Cable, Union County opponent of Hyperion's oil refinery. Cable says he likes the sound of EcoTech Fuels' project. And if EcoTech's tech is all they say it is, I'm inclined to agree. Extracting and transporting tar sands oil for Hyperion increases environmental harm; hauling garbage to the EcoTech plant instead of our landfills reduces environmental harm. Instead of importing a hazardous substance, the EcoTech system creates a market for an untapped resource we have right here in South Dakota.
The Grand Forks situation does make me wonder about EcoTech's ability to follow through and produce. But their affiliated companies at least have some track record in producing alternative fuel, unlike Hyperion's non-existent oil-refining record. Let's hope this project pans out!
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