KiOR situation hits closer to home for area

Published 12:05 am Friday, November 7, 2014

Days after Mississippi officials demanded action on its $1.9 million loan payment that was due Nov. 1, biofuels hopeful KiOR was silent on its plans.

The company, which built and attempted to make a go of their allegedly revolutionary process for turning wood chips into petroleum, owes the State of Mississippi approximately $69 million on an original $75 million loan.

KiOR planned to open several biorefineries around the state, including one in Adams County. Only a starter plant in Columbus materialized from KiOR’s plans.

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KiOR, like many such technology hopefuls, came to Mississippi promising the moon. Unlike some past magic-bean peddlers, KiOR’s story hit home to Mississippians because the company’s raw material for producing fuel was something Mississippi has an abundance of — trees.

What’s even better was that the company planned to effectively reuse the large pockets of timber across the state — including large amounts of timber in our area. Like local leaders and residents, many others in Mississippi were skeptically optimistic that KiOR’s process would rebuild the economies that were devastated by the closure of large paper mills, such as Natchez’s former International Paper operation.

Now, however, as the company’s processes have proven more difficult to scale than they imagined and with their cash supply running out — if not already gone — Mississippi officials may have no choice, but to legally pursue any remaining assets of the company to avoid a total loss for Mississippi taxpayers.