Opinion: EPA Putting Carrot Behind Biodiesel’s Back

KotrbaAs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers its proposal to cut down on the amount of biofuels to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply, biodiesel makers are still scratching their heads trying to figure out why their green fuel is even being considered. In this piece in Biodiesel Magazine, Ron Kotrba makes the case that when it comes to trying to entice renewable energy production, it seems the EPA has moved the carrot from in front to behind biodiesel… making it move backwards.

[W]hen EPA proposed stalling biodiesel growth and slashing advanced biofuel targets under this year’s [Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)] volume requirements—remember biodiesel is the only commercially available U.S. advanced biofuel to break the billion-gallon mark, and it has done so three years in a row now—investors and producers alike wondered how could they do this, and why?

Opponents to RFS and biodiesel often use the argument, “If biodiesel is such a great fuel, then why must the government require its use?” I believe the answer to this is quite obvious. Without government intervention in the form of gradually increasing mandates, biodiesel would remain locked out of the mainstream petroleum transportation fuels market because every percent of fossil diesel fuel that biodiesel displaces is lost profit for the wealthiest, most powerful corporations in the world.

For those who oppose RFS, for whatever reason, put the shoe on the other foot for a moment. You own a small business. Times are tough, particularly when competing with the local Big Box store with discount prices. The local government commits to its hometown small businesses by providing welcomed tax relief and special deductions that foster small business growth, keeping the mom-and-pop stores competitive in pricing and market opportunity. You, as a small business owner, invest in growing your business, as a result of these long-term commitments from your local government. Then, one day, without good reason, long before the tax breaks were targeted for sunset but just as their legislative intents were beginning to be realized, the council rescinds the tax breaks and you, as a small business owner, are left high and dry with your funds tied up in future growth based on a long-term commitment from your local government. Now what?

Kotrba goes on to counter the argument that if biodiesel was so good, it wouldn’t need government support. He points out that petroleum companies receive more than a half a trillion dollars in government subsidies. Plus, he says that while Big Oil might argue that the energy environment has changed since the RFS was enacted in 2007, one thing has not changed: oil is a finite resource, and one day we are going to run out.

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