JUNEAU -- U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens is trying to get $2 million for a study and possible engineering work on an ethanol plant in Southeast.
Stevens, R-Alaska, chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the money would go to Southeast Alaska's Native regional corporation, Sealaska, to determine if waste wood could be turned into ethanol, which can be used as a fuel additive.
The money was passed out of the Appropriations Committee last week along with the 2001 budget for the Department of the Interior, according to Stevens' office. The funding has yet to be approved by the full House and Senate.
Sealaska spokesman Ross Soboleff said the concept needs to be studied to make sure it will work.
''Over the past several years, we've had several timber initiatives,'' he told the Juneau Empire. ''One is an ethanol plant that would use wood waste.''
He said that the idea is environmentally friendly and could add jobs to Southeast.
Katya Kirsch, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, said the present wording of the appropriations bill allows for the use of healthy, old-growth trees, not just wood waste, at the ethanol plant.
She said the idea of such a plant is a bit extreme, and, in any case, there's no reason taxpayers should help pay for it.
''We think that if Sealaska wants to pursue this wild idea of making ethanol from old-growth trees, it should use its own land, its own wood and its own dime,'' Kirsch said. ''If it's feasible and economic, Sealaska should pay for it.''
Soboleff said the corporation is not sure where the plant would be built if it proves to be a good economic idea, but it likely would be on the southern end of Prince of Wales Island.
Soboleff said there will be demand for ethanol as an additive to gasoline so Alaska's largest cities can comply with the Clean Air Act. He said Anchorage is now importing about 4 million gallons of ethanol.
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