Biodiesel Needs/Deserves Support
"We spent $20,000 on a tank cleaning system, one of the few in Illinois," said Lockart. "We can clean a 30,000-gallon underground tank or a 500-gallon aboveground tank."
REPAIRING BIODIESEL'S REPUTATION
While a growing understanding of quality control and proper storage are repairing biodiesel's reputation, attitudes and expectations have been buoyed by recent Federal government initiatives. These include a 28 percent increase in the amount of biodiesel mandated for use in trucks. Initially set at 800 million gallons in 2011, it was raised to a billion gallons for 2013. The federal mandate requires petroleum refiners to purchase biodiesel or show compliance for blending biodiesel. They or others who blend can capture a $1 per gallon biodiesel blending tax credit. State initiatives, such as Illinois' sales tax exemption, are also seen as important to current and future biodiesel use.
Kevin Lockhart, energy consultant, Ag-Land FS, says clean tanks are critical when switching to biodiesel. Stroburg welcomes the increased Federal mandate, though it was less than the industry had lobbied for. He emphasized the importance of the $1 tax credit for helping build and maintain the infrastructure for biodiesel.
"We have to have it in place if we are going to have high quality fuels available to the marketplace," said Stroburg. "Continuing to build out the infrastructure is a major challenge. We need to continue to develop new types of feedstocks to convert. The recent price swings in commodities have been a challenge to plants without a management process in place to handle them. We need to find sources of unwanted fats and oils and convert them into high quality biodiesel."
Although biodiesel was first promoted as soy diesel and soybean growers were early funders and promoters, biodiesel has spread its wings in terms of feedstocks. Haer reported that soybeans made up only 55 percent of biodiesel feedstocks last year with canola accounting for 11 percent, recycled cooking oil 12 percent, animal fats 14 percent and corn oil from ethanol plants 8 percent. These alternatives to soybean feedstocks are expected to grow.
"We are a good market for inedible corn oil from ethanol plants, and there is an opportunity for growth in extraction of oil from distillers dried grains," said Haer. "There are also opportunities for canola to replace wheat acres and new oilseed crops like camelina to expand in more arid regions. We'll just have to see how the economics of producing oilseeds pans out."