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Biodiesel Makers Beg EPA To Notice: We're Not Ethanol!

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Biofuel crops (photo: Texas A&M University biofuels research alliance)

Biofuel crops (photo: Texas A&M University biofuels research alliance)

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One way to make vehicle fuels greener is to grow them--and it appears that biodiesel may have plenty of potential.

Like the feedstocks for ethanol, the plant oils refined into biodiesel are grown, rather than extracted from the ground.

But being lumped into the same bucket as ethanol is worrying the biodiesel industry, which fears the fuel is being dragged into draft legislation mainly aimed at ethanol producers.

According to Politico Pro (sub req.), the National Biodiesel Board has reacted strongly to a leaked EPA proposal to adjust its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that would limit volume requirements for biodiesel producers to a level considerably below that of today's production.

With the industry on track to produce 1.7 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2014, the draft proposal's limit of 1.28 billion gallons--the same as 2013--could risk as many as 8,000 jobs in the industry and could even result in several plant closures, according to the industry group.

The Board feels the biodiesel industry is being "unfairly dragged" into a fight between ethanol producers and fossil-fuel refiners over the amount of ethanol blended into pump gasoline.

Current EPA ethanol targets are meant to boost demand, and the agency approved use of E15 (gasoline with 15 percent ethanol) two years ago.

That's an expansion in ethanol content from today's E10, but automakers and some consumer groups--including the AAA--say the levels exceed those that can safely be put into vehicles without damaging their engines.

In its letter to the EPA, the National Biodiesel Board says the current RFS is "working successfully" for biodiesel, with the industry exceeding the EPA's target production every year while diversifying fuel supply and reducing pollution.

Like other biofuels, biodiesel has a lower net CO2 output than diesel fuel derived from oil, which helps to promote energy independence--a key target for the future.

New EPA head Gina McCarthy says the Agency is "only developing a draft proposal" at this point, and has made "no final decision" on the RFS for 2014.

But in the article, she made no comment  on whether the draft accurately reflects the EPA's position on biodiesel.

The situation highlights the importance of avoiding blanket policy that treats all biofuels as a single group--and notes that legislation aimed at promoting, or limiting, one fuel may have adverse effects on another.

[Hat tip: That Brian Guy]

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