LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Florida Biofuels LLC has shut down its production facility in Fort Myers indefinitely. The company received $500,000 from a federal energy grant, directed to the company through Lee County. Twelve people have been laid off.
"We are on furlough at the plant. We could not continue to produce bio-diesel because of the high costs of used cooking oil. We have been paying $3 a gallon for that oil, and then making the diesel, and selling the diesel for about $3, maybe $3 to $20 maximum, a gallon. That does not work financially," said Chris Speake, operations manager for Florida Biofuels.
The company has a production plant at the farmers market in Fort Myers. It received the half-million-dollar grant several years ago, to help with start-up costs.
Speake says the alternative energy market is young and very volatile.
"We have investors with millions of dollars put into production equipment; yet we don't know the price of our product, a month down the road or a week down the road," he told WINK News.
Lee Commissioner Frank Mann says it's a good lesson that alternative energy can be an unpredictable business to get into.
"The financials just don't always add up to make it feasible," Mann said.
Lee resident Rich Mauro agrees.
"Twelve people lost their jobs and this is a scar on Lee County. We got nothing to show for it," Mauro said.
Chris Speake said some investors are looking at either buying the plant or putting money into the operation.