Educating the EPA About Biodiesel

John Davis

Some folks in Missouri are trying to educate the government (I know, I know) about the possible implications of a rule that could hurt the biodiesel industry.

As many of you are aware, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a rule change to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) that would basically leave soybean-based biodiesel out of the RFS… putting the biodiesel component of the RFS in serious jeopardy. This story from Missouri Ruralist says that to preserve soybean biodiesel’s role, representatives from the Kansas City and St. Louis Regional Clean Cities partnered with the Kansas Soybean Commission and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and took some EPA officials on a field trip to a soybean field and a soybean processing facility and biodiesel plant near Kansas City:

“We wanted to be able to show every step of the biodiesel process from the field to the tailpipe,” said Dale Ludwig, executive director of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. “Sometimes people need to see something firsthand before they can truly understand it. We hope this educational session will help government officials make informed decisions regarding biodiesel.”

The EPA ruling calls for indirect land use change to be included in the calculations used to determine biodiesel’s greenhouse gas emissions. In order to qualify for use in the RFS-2, biofuels must demonstrate an ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to petroleum-based fuels. Studies have shown biodiesel easily meets that goal by reducing lifecycle carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, by 78% compared to conventional diesel fuel. When indirect land use calculations are applied, biodiesel’s emission reductions fall below the 50% threshold.

The indirect land use theory is based off the assumption that an increase in production of biodiesel in the United States results in the deforestation of Brazil and other countries to plant more crops to make up for demand. This assumption penalizes biodiesel for the release of carbon from trees that have been cut down. However, statistics from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service show deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has actually decreased since 2004, when U.S. biodiesel production began to increase significantly.

The backers of soy-biodiesel are not confident the EPA will use the best information to make the decision without the right input. Remember this little piece of video where EPA official Margo Oge testified before a House panel in May regarding the indirect land use issue first saying that it takes 64 acres for a gallon of soy biodiesel, and then, correcting herself even more incorrectly by saying it takes 64 acres for corn ethanol and over 400 acres for a gallon of biodiesel. Actually, one acre of soybeans makes 64 gallons of biodiesel and one acre of corn makes over 400 gallons of ethanol.

So, there you go. Don’t forget, the deadline to comment is September 25, 2009. Try to set them right on the biodiesel quantity issue, would you?

Biodiesel, Government