NBB: Biodiesel can help meet USDA’s AIA goals

By Erin Voegele | November 13, 2020

The National Biodiesel Board stressed that biodiesel is an adoptable, ready to go technology that can help meet the goals of the USDA’s Agricultural Innovation Agenda in comments submitted to the agency on Nov. 9.

The USDA in September announced it was seeking input on the most innovative technologies and practices that can be readily deployed across U.S. agriculture to meet the goals of the AIA.

The agency  unveiled the AIA in February 2020. The initiative aims to increase agricultural production by 40 percent by 2050 while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture by 50 percent.

One component of the AIA focuses on renewable energy, including ethanol, biodiesel and biomass. In February, the USDA said it aims to increase biofuel feedstock production and biofuel production efficiency and competitiveness to achieve market-driven blend rates of E15 in 2030 and E30 in 2050. The agency also aims to achieve market-driven demand for biofuel and biodiesel.

Earlier this year, the USDA sought input on technologies and practices that have the potential to address AIA goals, but that need substantial development or research prior to deployment. The agency more recently sought information on “ready to go” innovations and advice on how those “ready to go” innovations can be incorporated into USDA programs to accelerate their adoption. The NBB is among the organizations that responded to that request.

“NBB is looking forward to partnering with USDA to achieve the department's goal of increasing agricultural production by 40 percent to meet the needs of the global population in 2050 while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half,” the NBB wrote. “Biomass-based diesel, renewable diesel, and renewable jet fuel is ready to achieve these goals with the assistance of the right incentives and market demand that the Agriculture Innovation Agenda can provide.”

The NBB stresses that the biodiesel industry is an innovation ready to meet the goals of the AIA. The fuel is made from an increasing diverse mix of feedstocks and can immediately displace petroleum diesel in the hardest to reach heavy-duty vehicles today, the NBB added. Biodiesel can also replace distillate fuel in other applications, such as heating oil.

The fuel can also benefit the food industry. “Because biodiesel feedstocks are a byproduct of the protein meal portion of crops used for food, the production of biodiesel lowers input prices for food production by increasing value for surplus oils and fats,” the NBB wrote. “By creating value for the excess oil, biodiesel helps reduce the cost of protein for consumers and helps farmers satisfy protein demand while using less land area and inputs than might be required to grow alternative protein sources. Without biodiesel, another large-scale use would be necessary to consume the excess oil.”

In addition, biodiesel production and use can help sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “By definition, biodiesel must lower GHG emissions by at least 50 percent,” the NBB wrote. “When EPA compared biodiesel with petroleum-based diesel fuel, biodiesel reduced lifecycle greenhouse gases by as much as 86 percent.” If federal policy property incentivizes the use of existing feedstocks and installed production capacity, the NBB estimates that the U.S. biodiesel industry is poised to achieve more than 35 million tons of annual GHG reductions by 2022.

“Biodiesel is ‘ready to go’ and adoptable,” the NBB wrote. “The reliability and dense energy storage capacity of liquid fuel simply cannot be replaced for many vital sectors. Diesel fuel powers the heavy-duty trucks, trains, vessels, and aircraft essential to our economy. Diesel also powers agriculture and construction equipment vital to providing human necessities. Diesel powers most equipment needed for public safety such as ambulances, firetrucks, the military, snow removal, and emergency backup for electrical generation. While we expect that numerous strategies can reduce the total volume of liquid fuel consumed for transportation, we will need liquid fuel for certain purposes for at least several decades.”

The NBB indicated that several USDA programs could be deployed to help increase the availability and use of biodiesel. The group said infrastructure support and incentives will be needed to continue to build and retrofit traditional and/or pipeline terminals to blend more biodiesel. The NBB said rail capacities will also need to be increased to move increased volumes of biodiesel. In addition, additional funding through programs such as the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program are necessary to increase the availability of higher blends of biodiesel. The NBB, however, points out that the HBIIP program currently offers only $14 million of $100 million to support biodiesel. The remaining $86 million is focused on supporting ethanol. Additional funding in support of biodiesel would have a strong return on investment in supporting the goals of the AIA, the NBB said.

To aid in consumer education and awareness, the NBB urged the USDA to ask Congress to appropriate funding for the Biodiesel Education Program. “When funded, the Biodiesel Education Program has proved to expand awareness and markets for domestic biodiesel by educating government and private sector entities and the public about the benefits of biodiesel, which in turn stimulates biodiesel consumption and biodiesel feedstock demand,” the NBB said. “The Biodiesel Education Program focuses on educational programs that support advances in infrastructure, technology transfer, fuel quality, fuel safety and increasing feedstock production.”

A full copy of the NBB’s comments can be downloaded from the Regulations.gov website.



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