Ten years ago, then-Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and other state officials spent $70 million of taxpayer money on a facility in Vonore that would convert switchgrass into fuel.
Bredesen, now running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate, promised it was a great investment for Tennessee’s future.
On Christmas Eve 2015, however, when most people weren’t paying attention, officials at DuPont, the recipient of this taxpayer money, announced they were leaving Tennessee.
“Fibber Phil” Bredesen’s promise was not delivered.
No one at either Bredesen’s campaign or DuPont returned The Tennessee Star’s requests for comment Tuesday.
According to Humphrey on the Hill at that time, the refinery began as a joint project between DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC and The University of Tennessee Research Foundation.
“In 2007, the state legislature approved $70.5 million in total investment for the project, including $40.7 million for land acquisition, facilities construction and equipment,” according to Humphrey on the Hill.
“This proposal, at its core, is about joining the best of Tennessee’s agricultural and academic resources and leveraging them in a unique way that will position us to take advantage of the opportunities of tomorrow,” Bredesen said in a press release at the time.
“These investments will help secure our economic and environmental future and allow us to maximize our potential to be a farm-based fuels leader.”
A groundbreaking ceremony took place in October 2008 with an official ribbon cutting in January 2010.
Before the plan went into effect, Tennessee legislators reportedly argued over the plans, including size reductions and putting corncobs into the mix, Humphrey on the Hill reported.
“But that seems to have subsided after Bredesen defended the project and apparently went unmentioned in the ribbon-cutting ceremony,” the website said.
In his 2007 press release, Bredesen urged the plan saying Tennessee is a biomass state, and he stressed its long-term potential.
“We have the right conditions, climate and resources to grow virtually unlimited quantities of biomass,” Bredesen said.
“We also have the scientific and research communities in our universities and laboratories required to help us realize this potential in a way that can be truly transformational for our state and our economy.”
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