The People’s Fuel
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) Biodiesel is the people’s advanced biofuel, but it is not always the Establishment’s darling. Whether it is cleaner air, more lubricity, more advanced domestic manufacturing and jobs, higher property values driving higher revenues for states and schools, or a secondary market for growers to prevent another Farm Aid era of commodity busts — biodiesel delivers benefits across the board, and gets it done at scale, affordably, and for the long haul. You can count on it, it never advantages a nefarious power, it never leaves you behind.
And that’s why it’s always been the people’s fuel. From pencil-wielding fleet managers to dedicated biodiesel co-op members, there’s been real love for biodiesel. Even the french-fry aroma.
But it’s never been the princess of policy circles, where officials jam the growth, undercount the benefits, and miss the populist appeal.
The NBB’s Minutemen and the RVO
Take for example the question of the next round of diesel fuel standards — by law these days, diesel in the US must contain a percentage of renewable fuel and EPA defines the specifics. This year, EPA proposes that in 2019 we use 20% less biomass-based diesel than the industry produced in 2016. Despite falling fuel prices, rising mileage, rising biomass-based diesel capacity and even better technology.
The National Biodiesel Board says it is “extremely concerned with the proposed rule’s unprecedented cut,” which is their Missouri-nice way of putting it.
But don’t hold your breath that the EPA will embrace the people’s fuel or the people’s numbers. You can expect NBB’s notes to be well-researched, thoughtfully put, unassailably logical, and politely ignored.
Underestimating the value
Perhaps a new academic paper published in Biotechnology for Biofuels makes the point. Turns out, we’ve been undercounting the benefits. Updated modeling from Purdue University confirms that the carbon advantage of using biodiesel has been underestimated by 10 percent.
The problem? It comes back to the never-ending subject of indirect land use change.
“The previous versions of GTAP and other similar models assumed that changes in harvested area equal changes in cropland area. However, FAO data demonstrate that it is not correct for several important world regions. The model now includes land intensification, and the resulting land use changes and emission values are lower as would be expected.”
We are feeding better food to more people, and we are doing it using less land,” (NBB’s Don) Scott said.
“This is great news, because agriculture is our most powerful tool to turn solar energy and carbon dioxide into things like food and biodiesel.
What’s the remedy? Policy papers, research — they help. Fly-ins featuring growers help. But it’s a year of Debate-by-Twitter and raw political muscle of the combative Steve Bannon type — and election impact is likely to weigh a lot more than science impact this year. It’s time for the Friendly fuel to find what excites the Trump base when it comes to diesel-side fuels.
A GOP friend writes this: “We need more geographic and product balance in our liquid fuels future. The country needs biofuels as an insurance policy”. READ MORE
Academic Study: Biodiesel Benefits Under-Valued for Years (National Biodiesel Board)