Wednesday, June 6, 2012

If biodiesel is so good, mandate not needed

Here is a letter to the Columbus Dispatch from Bill Davis, President of the Ohio Soybean Association, arguing for the ODOT biodiesel mandate.

Auditor of State Dave Yost’s recent recommendation that the Ohio Department of Transportation eliminate its legislatively mandated use of biodiesel and switch back to 100 percent petroleum diesel to save money is shortsighted (“ Auditor: State vehicles’ biodiesel too costly,” Capital Notes item, May 22). It does not consider the many benefits biodiesel provides to Ohio.
In addition, my group believes that an evaluation of biodiesel purchasing practices could yield more-efficient purchasing and a reduction on the price differential. While we agree that the state must enact cost-effective practices, the full range of biodiesel’s benefits — economic, energy-security and environmental — more than make up for the minimal cost difference identified by the auditor.
Biodiesel creates hundreds of Ohio jobs on farms and production facilities, and at fuel distributors. These are good, local jobs. In these tough economic times, can we afford to throw them away?
Something else that we can’t afford is compromising our energy security. Every gallon of biodiesel we use in Ohio displaces a gallon of petroleum. If there is one thing we can all agree on today, surely, it is the need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Every time we use biodiesel, we move closer to achieving that goal, while also keeping Ohio dollars in Ohio.
We cannot ignore biodiesel’s significant environmental benefits. After extensive review, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that biodiesel reduces greenhouse-gas emissions by 50 percent as compared with petroleum diesel, and it decreases particulate matter, a serious health hazard, by 47 percent. It also reduces cancer-causing emissions by more than 80 percent compared with regular diesel.
Biodiesel also enhances engine lubricity, which extends engine life by preventing premature wear and tear. All of these factors must be taken into consideration in response to Yost’s recommendation, which is a short-term fix for long-term economic, energy-security and environmental challenges.
Revising the state mandate would be counterproductive. Let’s maintain our commitment to a fuel that will take Ohio forward, not back.
Ohio Soybean Association

And here is a letter from myself, published in the 6/6 edition of the Dispatch.

In his Saturday letter “Biodiesel's benefits make it worth the extra cost,” Bret Davis made the case for maintaining Ohio’s biodiesel mandate. Lauding benefits such as Ohio jobs, energy independence, environmental benefits and enhanced engine lubricity, Davis made it seem like using biodiesel to power the state’s vehicles is a no-brainer.
But if using biodiesel is so much better than regular gasoline, why does it need a mandate? Is State Auditor Dave Yost undervaluing the supposed benefits of biodiesel?
If Davis’ description of the benefits is accurate, a cost-benefit analysis should include them, as appropriate. But arguing for an accurate cost-benefit analysis is not the same thing as pleading for a mandate.
Someone who has confidence in his product’s benefits would not rely on a government mandate to sell it. Perhaps we now know how confident Davis is when it comes to biodiesel.


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