FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Ethanol is being touted across the country as a clean alternative fuel for our cars. But a plan to make it in Cumberland County has many neighbors crying foul.
Dorothy Hamilton is used to trucks driving past her home. She lives across Bethune Drive from the big Goodyear plant. But now there’s rumblings of another factory to be built on her street.
"I believe that plant should be put somewhere else, not in a neighborhood where people live,” Hamilton said.
She could see another 30 to 60 18-wheelers a day, and a pine thicket down the street from her house could become a plant turning 41 million bushels of corn into ethanol every year.
The facility would be run by E85 Inc., a start-up firm owned by a wealthy investor in India. The Cumberland County Business Council smells a good opportunity, while neighbors fear it would just smell.
"In some cases there is a smell, but it's older technology,” said Phyllis Owens with the Cumberland Business Council. “And in most cases, when we're talking about state-of-the-art technology, the smell is confined to the plant site."
Some have likened the smell to corn flakes; others to stale beer.
The project has raised a stink in the Graystone Farms subdivision. Residents are petitioning Cumberland County commissioners not to approve E85.
"Most of this gasoline that they're producing, we're probably not even going to use,” said Craig Purcell, who is collecting signatures from residents.
"I don't disagree with big business coming into Fayetteville,” Purcell said. “We need big business. But we need pharmaceutical companies. We need microprocessing plants. We don't need some factory coming in here that employs 40 people."
He said it's not worth the county giving $875,000 in incentives to a plant he thinks would hurt property values and foul the air. Project boosters say ethanol is among the best things going for weaning Americans off oil and cleaning the air.
"There are other things, great things coming down the pike,” said Owens. “But they are still five, 10, 15 years out. We need to start doing something for our country today.”
The state's Division of Air Quality has approved a permit for the $200 million plant, and county commissioners will vote Monday night on whether to give the project tax incentives.