Divided We Fall
Those fighting for one renewable fuel may be wasting energy and creating
a no-win situation. Representatives from all sides of the renewable
diesel issue speak with Biodiesel Magazine about perceptions shaping the
future coexistence of alternative diesel fuels.
By Ron Kotrba
A great debate arose in 2007 as the emergence of subsidized "renewable"
diesel clouded biodiesel's future as an alternative on-road fuel. The
latest numbers demonstrate that 80 percent of U.S.-made biodiesel is
exported out of the country, largely to Europe, because there's no
"market"—no methyl-ester-specific standard—for biodiesel in the states.
Many believe the only way biodiesel will find a commercial
transportation-fuel market here is through government intervention: a
specific national standard, exclusivity of the blender's credit,
extension of the tax credit and special Farm Bill incentives for oilseed
production dedicated to biodiesel manufacturing. "The future of
biodiesel is going to be contingent on a couple of things," says Richard
Moskowitz, vice president of regulatory affairs for the American
Trucking Association. The ATA could represent a large U.S. biodiesel
market if the 37,000 members the organization represents would choose to
"Biodiesel has to be priced the same or less than petroleum diesel—the
trucking industry will change its purchasing decisions on as little as
one penny a gallon. We can't afford to pay more for our fuel than our
competitors are paying. With biodiesel, if we have to use certain
cold-weather improvers there's a cost to that. Because of the lower
energy content, if we have to burn slightly more fuel, there's a cost to
With biodiesel there's a need for fuel filter changes ahead of regular
maintenance—and there's a cost to that." Then Moskowitz mentions the
infamous National Renewable Energy Laboratory quality study. "Fifty
percent of the samples failed to meet spec—that has to be fixed to way
less than 1 percent. We don't have those issues with petroleum diesel
and we shouldn't have them with any substitute that we consider using."
Moskowitz was part of a closed-door briefing in mid-October in
Washington D.C., organized by Hart Energy Consulting, the International
Fuel Quality Center, and the Global Biofuels Center. The meeting was
called, "Can Renewable Diesel and Biodiesel Coexist?" Its purpose was to
initiate healthy dialogue and educate those involved.
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/