ST. Louis -- Stephen Censky, CEO of the American Soybean Association, opened yesterday's Plenary Session II at the Advancing Renewable Energy Conference in St. Louis.

The conference, which was jointly hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the USDA, brought together key stakeholders in biofuels, wind, and solar energy to accelerate development and rapid commercialization of renewable energy technologies.

"Today I stand before you truly amazed by the growth of the renewable energy industry, and genuinely proud of the contributions made by the American Soybean Association to the advancement of biodiesel fuel in the United States," Censky said. "When I was growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota, the idea of running our farm tractors on renewable fuel was not even contemplated. Today, farmers are a key consumer segment for soy biodiesel."

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, biodiesel, a renewable fuel that can be made from soybean oil, has become America's fastest growing alternative fuel. Today, there are 86 operational biodiesel plants in the U.S., with 65 more already under construction and an additional 13 being expanded. More than 600 fleets now use biodiesel, including government and military, commercial and school buses.

For many, the highlight of the conference was an appearance by President George W. Bush who said, "I have been to a biodiesel plant in Virginia. And it doesn't take much capital investment to refine biodiesel from soy, soybeans; it just doesn't. Biodiesel is coming. It makes a lot of sense for us to continue to invest in biodiesel technologies to make the production process even more efficient.

Bush went on to say, "These technological breakthroughs are going to say to our farmers, you're energy producers. And that's good for America."

Censky of ASA said, "Biodiesel has been ASA's number one domestic policy issue for more than a decade, and I dare say that the biodiesel industry in the United States would not be what it is today, if not for the successful grassroots lobbying efforts of ASA and our state affiliates. In 2005, the first year after the Federal tax incentive was in place, U.S. biodiesel production tripled to 75 million gallons, and this year, we anticipate that figure will nearly triple again to almost 200 million gallons."

In 1998, ASA led the charge in getting the Energy Policy Act amended so biodiesel qualified as an alternative fuel. ASA then pressed USDA and Congress to establish the CCC Bioenergy Program. And more recently, ASA lobbied Congress to establish and extend the biodiesel tax incentive, which has been so critical to the growth of biodiesel in the last two years.

Biodiesel is an environmentally sound alternative to petroleum diesel, and is made right here in the United States using soybeans grown on U.S. farms. Biodiesel is a top-notch product that lessens U.S. dependence on foreign oil, improves air quality, and stimulates the rural economies where it's produced.

Now ASA is advancing a three-point plan designed to enable biodiesel producers to manufacture even greater quantities of this renewable fuel. Specifically, ASA is asking Congress to include in any energy package legislation that:

1. Extends the volumetric biodiesel tax incentive;
2. Extends the small agri-biodiesel producer credit; and 3. Authors and funds a CCC Biodiesel program.

With these programs in place, domestic biodiesel production, just from soybean oil, could well surpass 600 million gallons by 2015. Each gallon of domestically produced biodiesel represents an expansion of distillate supplies, additional refinery capacity, and is a direct replacement for imported fossil fuel.

"America's energy challenges are well documented," Censky said. "While there are no simple answers to this problem, one can safely conclude that our country needs more fuel. And that's a need soybean farmers stand ready to fill through the production of more soybean-based biodiesel."

SOURCE: ASA news release.