Earth Biofuels: Running Out of Gas?

A Friend of Unfair Park with a very long memory recalls that in July, we mentioned that Julia Roberts was named spokesperson for Dallas-based Earth Biofuels, which produces, markets and distributes -- what else? -- biodiesel fuel. The company only last week launched something called the "BioWillie� Marketing Program," whatever that means. (Actually, that's the name of its enviro-fuel: BioWillie, so named for Willie Nelson, who has 6.5 million shares in the company that were recently valued at $11 million. Nice. Or, maybe, not.)

Well, Roberts has been doing some work for Earth Biofuels; in November she was on Oprah talking about its School Bus America program, which aims to get school buses off diesel and hooked instead on biodiesel. But our Friend points out that shortly after Roberts' appearance with Winfrey, there appeared in Forbes a scathingly skeptical story that suggests Earth Biofuels might not be long for this, uh, world.

The story says Earth Biofuels missed a December 4 deadline "for coming up with $80 million in financing to restart a long-shuttered ethanol plant south of New Orleans, the company's largest investment to date. At the very least it stands to lose its $5 million deposit, to say nothing of an additional $22 million it has put into the project. With just $41,609 in cash on the books as of Sept. 30, that's a pretty big hit."

The story also chronicles, at length, the business history of Chief Executive Officer Dennis G. McLaughlin III, who, the mag says, "presided over the $100 million bankruptcy of the company he formed in 1993, Aurora Natural Gas." There are other failed businesses and other lawsuits and other settlements. But all that aside, Forbes says business ain't good and the company's losing money fast.

For fun, you can also check out Earth Biofuels' Securities and Exchange Commission filings -- like this one from last week, which gave Morgan Freeman 3 million more shares of stock, on top of the 3 mil he already has. --Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky