The outlook for biodiesel on the path to zero emissions

It will take a diversified approach from within to help the ag industry reduce carbon emissions. The movement is growing and it was the topic among industry leaders during the National Biodiesel Conference.

In 2009, California was the first state to set a comprehensive carbon policy, now roughly half the country has followed suit. Matt Herman, Director of Environmental Science for the National Biodiesel Board says that farmers and processors understand the need to adapt to changing standards.

According to Herman, “Innovative biodiesel producers and their feedstock suppliers, including American soy growers, recognize that path to zero that we all talk about is the path forward in one way or the other.”

He says that biodiesel will likely have to share the road with a growing number of electric vehicles.

“Like solar and wind, electric vehicles will undoubtedly be a key technology in our long-term decarbonization strategy,” he states. “However, unlike wind and solar, which provide zero emissions power when they’re running, displacing fossil generation, electric vehicles aren’t always zero emissions.”

He says that charging location and time of day can affect the total emissions of an electric vehicle, which in turn can help companies or individuals determine if they are an effective choice for carbon reduction. Scott Fenwick, Technical Director for the National Biodiesel Board says that every type of fuel has its own unique opportunities and challenges, including biodiesel.

“One of the biggest challenges for biodiesel still considered today is cold flow and as we work towards higher blends, whether that’s in transportation fuels or even in bioheat, that’s a big detriment to using higher biodiesel blends,” Fenwick explains.

He says that manufacturers are also limited by the technology that is currently available and typically work on a seven to eight year turn around from when a new technology is introduced to when it is available on the market.

“Unfortunately, they may not have seven years anymore, whether it be with changing regulatory policies, directives, whatever the case maybe,” Fenwick adds. “They have to implement pretty drastic changes to meet new regulatory requirements.”

Industry groups, like the Illinois Soybean Checkoff and the American Lung Association, are working to help prove the role of biodiesel in a clean economy by funding projects like the B20 Club, which features companies committed to running fleet vehicles with a 20 percent or higher biodiesel fuel blend.


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