- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Midwestern agricultural states are making a big push for a provision in the multibillion-dollar energy bill in Congress that would boost the market for renewable fuels, particularly biodiesel.
Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, yesterday recommended Congress create incentives for wider use of biodiesel in commercial fleets.
"I think we can provide a clear market for biodiesel, moving us away from dependence on foreign oil," he said at a Capitol Hill press conference.
Biodiesel refers to a mix of diesel and vegetable oil, usually from soybeans. The fuel pollutes less than regular diesel, particularly from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. However, it also costs at least 2 cents per gallon more when only 2 percent of the fuel mixture is derived from agricultural products.
So far, biodiesel is supplied by about 15 companies primarily to private fueling facilities, many of them under contract to government agencies.
The trucking industry opposes biodiesel mandates.
In the Washington area, vehicles used by the National Arboretum, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Agricultural Research Service run on biodiesel. In Mr. Bond's home state, transit buses in St. Louis and Kansas City use biodiesel.
Last year, U.S. consumption of biodiesel reached an all-time high of 15 million gallons. "This market has the potential to grow to 1.2 billion gallons a year," Mr. Bond said.
The Energy Department reports that about 55 billion gallons of diesel are used in the United States annually.
Mr. Bond led an effort last week that defeated a Democratic proposal to reduce oil consumption by setting higher standards for automobile fuel efficiency. He co-sponsored an amendment that would let the Transportation Department decide fuel-efficiency standards rather than having Congress legislate miles-per-gallon requirements.
He argued that rigid standards would lead to smaller cars that are unsafe in collisions and loss of jobs as American-made sport utility vehicle and pickup truck production was eliminated.
Democrats in Congress are the primary supporters of biodiesel to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. They want to offer tax credits to commercial fleet operators that use the fuel. Republicans favor Alaskan oil drilling as a primary method to reduce foreign oil dependence.
Mr. Bond has not deviated from the Republican position. He is merely trying to support an alternative fuel that he says could be "extremely significant" to the agricultural industry. He said the tax incentives for biodiesel stand a good chance of approval by Congress in the pending energy bill.
On Friday, Minnesota became the first state to require use of biodiesel in commercial fleets.
Vegetable oils typically make up anywhere from 2 percent to 20 percent of a biodiesel mixture. Animal tallow could also be used instead of vegetable oil, although it is not a favored substitute.
Some groups, such as truckers, complain that biodiesel requirements are unfair because they run up their operating costs. Economists say the fuel could be inflationary by adding an unnecessary expense to the economy.
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura let the biodiesel requirement pass into law last week without his signature after expressing concern about added costs.
"If this bill did not present such a clear opportunity for our farmers and our state, I would veto the bill on these grounds alone," Mr. Ventura wrote in a letter to state lawmakers.


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