BY: Steve Wilson |


In 2011, then-Gov. Haley Barbour told the Columbus Dispatch that KiOR’s process to turn wood products into gasoline was “almost like making gold out of straw.”

To many, it seemed like a bright idea at the time. Gasoline was more than $3 per gallon at the pump and Mississippi has plenty of pine forests. KiOR’s plant in Columbus, in eastern Mississippi, was to be the first of several that would spend up to $85 million in the Magnolia State on wood products and labor. KiOR had a patented process using catalysts to turn wood pulp into gasoline that sounded almost too good to be true.

The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) provided a $75 million no-interest loan in 2010 to now-bankrupt biofuel producer KiOR to build a $230 million plant in Columbus. The facility never met its production goals before shutting down in 2014. Equipment from the plant, which was designed to turn pine trees into gasoline, was sold for $1.7 million to the Renewable Energy Group and to Georgia Renewable Power , which paid $2.1 million, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

After the facility’s tax debt to Lowndes County is paid, state taxpayers will likely receive straw rather than the gold they were promised.

MDA said in a statement that it spent a year trying to sell the facility to no avail, and determined that it was in the “state’s best interest” to sell off the plant’s equipment. The agency also said it was “still committed to its comprehensive legal strategy to recover the maximum amount of the state’s investment possible.”

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