The news last week that a local biofuels producer might have to close without state subsidies left us feeling a little conflicted. We support the general position of producers of biodiesel and similar biofuels. This is an emerging industry, and state subsidies will help young companies compete with producers in the Midwest that are receiving generous government support.
But the local producers' newest stance is a hard one to agree with. Ben Wootton, president of Keystone Biofuels Inc. in Silver Spring Township, told Business Journal Staff Writer Jim T. Ryan that Keystone has halted production and laid off most of its workers.
Without subsidies, the plant will go out of business at the end of the month, Wootton said.
There's a "help us or else" tone to this message that makes us uncomfortable, even if the tone was not intended. We still think soybean oil offers a real, common-sense opportunity to reduce global warming and help Pennsylvania farmers. We also still think the subsidies will spur enough economic activity to pay for themselves several times over. And we think the Legislature should move quickly to pass a measure that would start the subsidies.
But every business enterprise operates with a certain amount of risk. And owners have an obligation to plan for worst-case scenarios. Folks in the biofuels sector must have known months ago what might happen if the state didn't pass a measure supporting the industry. If they didn't have a Plan B ready to go, then maybe they simply weren't ready to compete.