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Sunday, August 23, 2009 - 6:57am

Biofuel Plant in South GA Struggling

Georgia's only corn ethanol plant is struggling to stay open. Its financial predicament reflects a national trend in the industry.

First United Ethanol opened one of the southeast's largest corn ethanol plants in south Georgia's Camilla just last fall.

Its June filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission show it has more than $100 million in long term debt, and if revenues continue to decline, the report says the company could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

But company officials say their finances are improving and they'll be able to make payments to their lenders as scheduled.

Georgia's Director of Alternative Energy Jill Stuckey says nationwide, the corn and oil markets haven't been working in favor of corn ethanol plants.

"The price of crude had dropped and the price of corn had remained high and they're having financial issues."

Stuckey says when these plants were sprouting up all over the country in recent years, corn was cheaper and the fuel was easier to make. Since then the plants have driven up the demand for corn and its cost, and now, it's tough for them to profit while competing with falling gasoline prices.

She says if First United Ethanol goes bankrupt, it will hurt the economy of south Georgia, which is heavily invested in the fuel.

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