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EU's Trade Barriers Challenged By U.S. Biodiesel Industry

On Tuesday The National Biodiesel Board (NBB)  filed comments with the European Commission challenging unfair trade duties that have blocked U.S. biodiesel from being exported to Europe since 2009.

NBB urged the commission to allow duties on U.S. biodiesel to expire this year as scheduled, citing overwhelming evidence that global trade for biodiesel has changed dramatically since the duties were imposed and that continuing the duties is protectionist and unnecessary.

NBB also emphasized that European biodiesel producers are able to sell biodiesel in both Europe and the United States without duties or limitation and can freely participate in U.S. policies such as the Renewable Fuel Standard and the U.S. biodiesel tax incentive. At the least, NBB said, U.S. producers should be able to participate in the European market without having to pay punitive duties

"We have presented a strong case for ending these protectionist barriers that are unfairly hurting U.S. biodiesel producers even as European producers are taking advantage of the U.S. market," said Anne Steckel, NBB's vice president of federal affairs. "As we speak, European biodiesel producers are sending biodiesel to the U.S., with significant policy support, while at the same time the European market has been cut off from U.S. producers."

"The bottom line is that biodiesel trade is dramatically different in 2014 than it was in 2009 when the U.S. industry was just getting off the ground," Steckel said. "Eliminating these duties will level the playing field and allow U.S. producers to fairly compete in accordance with international law - just as we are allowing European producers to do in the U.S. market."

The original biodiesel trade duties were imposed by the European Commission on July 7, 2009 and were slated to expire this year. However, the Commission is currently conducting an "expiry review" over whether to reinstate them at the request of European industry. The review is expected to last 12 to 15 months.

Some Important points highlighted in NBB's filing Tuesday:

• U.S. imports of biodiesel from the EU have grown in recent years while EU imports of U.S. biodiesel have been virtually eliminated.
• The U.S. biodiesel tax incentive, which was the primary basis for the EU's initial trade duties, is currently not in effect and hasn't been in effect for three of the past five years.
• Because it is structured as a blender's incentive, the U.S. biodiesel tax incentive is available to European producers, when it is in effect, in the same way it is available to U.S. producers. Additionally, European imports to the U.S. can qualify for the RFS, the policy that requires specific volumes of renewable fuels to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply.
• The U.S. biodiesel market has evolved significantly since 2009 and, with required volumes under the RFS creating a strong and growing domestic market, it is unlikely that eliminating the trade barriers would lead to a flood of U.S. biodiesel exports to Europe.

Biodiesel - made from a variety of resources including soybean oil, recycled cooking oil and animal fats - is the first EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide. With plants in nearly every state in the country, the industry had a record U.S. market last year of nearly 1.8 billion gallons.

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