Checkoff-Funded Research Helped Correct Misconceptions About Biodiesel’s Carbon-Reducing Potential
ST. LOUIS – The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final regulations for the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) requires 1.15 billion gallons of biodiesel be used domestically by the end of 2010. This figure represents the sum of biomass-based diesel requirements for 2009 (500 million gallons) and 2010 (650 million gallons) included in the federal energy bill passed in 2007. Beginning in 2012, the RFS2 requirement for biodiesel will be at least 1 billion gallons per year.
According to the final rule, biodiesel, including biodiesel made from the U.S. soybean oil, reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50 percent compared with traditional petroleum-based diesel, thus qualifying it as an advanced biofuel.
“The RFS2 recognizes biodiesel’s ability to reduce carbon emissions as well as its place in our future energy solution,” said soybean checkoff farmer-leader Joel Thorsrud, a soybean farmer from Hillsboro, N.D., and a member of the United Soybean Board’s (USB) Domestic Marketing program. “It is important that this rule is based on accurate scientific data, which soybean checkoff-funded research helped demonstrate.”
Soybean Checkoff Supports Biodiesel Industry
Soybean oil remains the dominant feedstock for biodiesel production in the United States, and the soybean checkoff funds a large portion of the biodiesel research and promotion through the National Biodiesel Board (NBB). Thanks in part to these efforts, U.S. biodiesel production increased from 25 million gallons in 2004 to an estimated 475 million gallons in 2009. According to NBB, biodiesel represents the only advanced biofuel currently being produced in commercial-scale quantities nationwide.
Last year, the checkoff provided funding to NBB to conduct its Sustainability Analysis and Awareness project, which provided scientific research to clarify some of the misinformation about biodiesel and the concept of indirect land use change (ILUC). This concept threatened to exclude biodiesel from consideration as an advanced biofuel in the RFS2 by not giving it full credit for its ability to reduce carbon emissions. The project found several inaccuracies in the EPA’s methodologies and calculations.
Though the final rule includes ILUC in its calculations of life-cycle GHG emissions and its evaluation of biofuels, the methodology the EPA used in the final rule gives biodiesel credit for reducing GHG emissions by 57 percent. And one EPA analysis recognizes that biodiesel could reduce GHG emissions by as much as 85 percent.
“Support from USB and state checkoff organizations was vital to NBB’s ability to provide expert information on feedstock production, economic modeling and life-cycle analysis,” said NBB Chairman Ed Hegland, a soybean farmer from Appleton, Minn. “Their research provided sound science and accurate data.”
Biodiesel Brings Benefits to Environment, Economy
“Biodiesel carries significant advantages over imported petroleum diesel,” Thorsrud said. “Continued supply of Middle East oil is always in doubt, but producing it here ensures availability of fuel. Additionally, the biodiesel industry provides a boost for the U.S. and rural economies, generating jobs and keeping the money at home instead of sending it abroad.”
Overall, the RFS2 calls for 36 million gallons of renewable fuels to be used by the time it’s fully implemented in 2022. The EPA also expects the rule to offer numerous economic and environmental benefits between now and 2022, including:
Increasing U.S. net farm income by $13 billion, or more than 36 percent.
Reducing GHG emissions by 138 million metric tons, the equivalent of taking 127 million vehicles off the road.
The displacement of about 13.6 billion gallons of petroleum-based gasoline and diesel, or about 7 percent of anticipated motor fuel consumption.
A decrease of $41.5 billion worth of oil imports.
A decrease in fuel prices of 2.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 12.1 cents per gallon for diesel.
USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.