At the same time the federal Renewable Fuels Standard is designed to increase the use of renewable energy like soybean-based biodiesel and gradually diversify the nation's fuel supply, EPA's interpretation of the RFS will dramatically reduce the opportunity to grow the soy biodiesel sector.
"During this important time in our nation's history, we should not be curbing the investment into home grown biofuels like soy biodiesel," says Debbie Borg, president of the Nebraska Soybean Association and a farmer from Allen. "EPA is using flawed logic that basically says biofuels production in this country results in land use changes around the globe, when in all actuality the relationship is tenuous at best and flat out wrong at the worst."
The RFS directs EPA to consider direct and indirect emissions, including indirect land use emissions, as part of the "life cycle analysis" of greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels. The result was the development of a model that attempted to take into consideration how biofuels production in the United States may alter land use in other parts of the world.
The model assigned a high penalty to soy-based biodiesel in this regard due to the assumption that land in some corner of the world would be cleared to produce more oilseeds if U.S. soybean oil was used for biodiesel, Borg says.
"Such conclusions are flawed and ignore all of the other decisions that impact how land is used," she adds. "While we hope to see the RFS language altered or EPA's model corrected, it is creating confusion and reduced interest in continuing the development of biodiesel, and that is not the direction we need this country to go."
EPA's model ignores things like population growth, food and feed demand, cattle production, timber prices and other real world items that have historically driven land use decisions in countries around the world.
In addition, the land use change model was based off the 2001-04 time period, a period when there was very little soy biodiesel produced. "How the leap was made to penalize soy biodiesel for land use changes around the world seems like a bit of a stretch considering the variables and unknowns," Borg says.
"In no way, shape or form did Congress intend for soy biodiesel to be excluded as a renewable fuel under the RFS," she says. "If soy biodiesel is excluded, the ramp up of biodiesel that's required by the RFS won't be achieved because there are not enough of other feedstocks to produce the amount of biodiesel called for."
Soy biodiesel is one of the cleanest burning biofuels in use today. It is a renewable and sustainable energy source that can play an important role in our national efforts to increase our energy security and improve our environmental footprint. Along the way, biodiesel provides a reliable market opportunity for soybean farmers and provides jobs and economic development in rural communities.