“It doesn’t have to be that way,” King says.
“SPLASH ‘N’ DASH”
King and Nelson feel that American consumers (and, by extension, American fleets) are unaware of the way biodiesel is often produced and sold. Domestic producers, they explain, will often import biodiesel produced in other countries, blend it with diesel fuel here in the U.S. (to take advantage of the U.S. government’s “blender’s credit”), then export it to another market in another country. This type of scheme, called “Splash ‘n’ Dash,” does nothing to benefit American farmers or American fleets, but because it’s subsidized by a tax credit, it’s costing us all money.
“This is not sustainable,” King says, “and it’s ironic that the subsidies are based on the need for energy security, and yet we’re shipping half of our biodiesel production out of the country. So, we’re not addressing energy security, we’re just addressing huge profit margins.”
Sustainable biodiesel, by contrast, does enhance energy security, but not enough people are aware of that.
To address that lack of awareness, the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance is currently establishing “best practices” standards for the definition of sustainability in the biodiesel industry, King says. These standards will address feedstock quality as well as production processes, waste stream and distribution.
“The word ‘sustainable’ is overused these days,” King admits. “Everybody says they’re sustainable, but there needs to be a very strong basis for this. There is a group trying to define ‘sustainable’ palm-oil biodiesel from Indonesia, even though palm oil production displaces a lot of rain forest. Well, if you ship it out of Indonesia to the U.S., it’s not a sustainable source for us. The only way it would be a sustainable source is if you grow it in Indonesia, blend it with diesel fuel in Indonesia, and distribute it in Indonesia.”
Little wonder that fleet managers worry about where biodiesel comes from, what it’s made of, and how they can be sure of its quality.
SBA’s best practices standards may be the industry’s best hope of settling those issues once and for all. In fact, you yourself may be able to gain a competitive edge by joining SBA’s new end-users’ group and helping to establish those standards.
“We’re looking for managers of fleets that are interested in converting to biodiesel, but have concerns about biodiesel’s impact on the environment,” King says. “These people will be a key part of the biodiesel industry’s ability to address these concerns.”
We encourage Fleet Maintenance/Fuel Advantage readers to be part of the solution. To join the sustainable biodiesel end-users’ group, contact Jeff Plowman at the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance at (808) 214-0968 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit
Rob Tripp, CEO of Benefuel, Inc., (www.benefuel.net) says that it’s a mistake to squeeze biodiesel production into the centralized petroleum model. “It’s a flawed model that doesn’t lend itself to consistent quality,” he says.
Instead, Benefuel plans to follow the community-based biodiesel model proposed by SBA when it opens its first production facility in Seymour, IN.
“We can take any feedstock, or run a combination of feedstocks—whatever regional feedstock we can get our hands on—and turn that into high-quality biodiesel in a single step,” he says. “We’ve also developed an inline testing process, which has never existed before.”
The company plans to develop a regional distribution system that will give users “direct accountability for the quality of the fuel.” Ultimately Benefuel will duplicate that regional model across the country.
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