WASHINGTON – Nearly 100 biodiesel producers, feedstock suppliers and other advocates are traveling to Washington this week to voice concerns about the Obama Administration’s proposed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for biodiesel.
The biodiesel supporters, who will be visiting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday, arrive at a critical time for the industry, which has seen widespread cutbacks this year as a result of policy setbacks in Washington. A recent national survey of producers conducted by the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) found that more than half have idled a plant this year and 78 percent have reduced production from last year. Nearly two-thirds – 66 percent – have already laid off employees or anticipate doing so.
“People are losing their jobs in this industry as we speak, and it’s largely because Washington has delivered sporadic, inconsistent policy,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs at NBB, the industry trade association. “As President Obama has said, America should be the world leader in biodiesel and in Advanced Biofuels. And we can be. But we need this Administration and this Congress to stand behind strong energy policy that encourages investment and growth.”
Biodiesel – which had a record U.S. market last year of nearly 1.8 billion gallons – is made from an increasingly diverse mix of feedstocks including recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats. It is the only domestic, EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel produced on a commercial scale across the country. The EPA has determined that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57 percent to 86 percent. With plants in nearly every state in the country, the industry supported more than 62,000 jobs in 2013.
The biodiesel advocates traveling to Washington represent companies in at least 27 states. Their visit will focus on concerns about the Obama Administration’s RFS proposal for biodiesel, which would set biodiesel volumes at 1.28 billion gallons, a sharp cut from last year’s actual production. They also will call on lawmakers to reinstate the $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive, which expired on Dec. 31.
“The recent spike in oil prices stemming from the situation in Iraq should remind us all why these policies are so important,” Steckel added. “We constantly talk about the need to reduce our dependence on oil. Doing that requires massive investments and infrastructure improvements that simply won’t happen without strong energy policy. We can’t keep taking one step forward and two steps back.”