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The rollback of a $1/gallon federal tax credit on biofuels threatens to sink many small biodiesel producers across the country.  (Source: Alibaba)
Without the $1/gallon federal tax credit, the biodiesel industry no longer appears commercially viable

While most are hoping that the U.S. can transition to electric vehicles and vehicles running on sustainable biofuels, this last year has made it clear that the process will be no walk in the park.  Recent studies showed that, in their current form, hydrogen cars emit more carbon over their lifecycle than gas cars.  And early consumer electric vehicles, like the BMW Mini E, while low emissions, have suffered from a variety of temperature related woes.

Now the biofuels sector has become the latest green transportation field to suffer disappointment in 2009.  The year started off rocky with the European Union in March unveiling import-killing tariffs on biodiesel and other biofuel.  Then, as the U.S. recovered from the recession, diesel prices dropped 18 percent off their highs, making it harder to justify the high costs of biodiesel.

Now another nail has been placed in the commercial biofuel industry' coffin -- the government $1/gallon federal tax credit will expire this Friday.  And for many businesses in the industry, it may be the last; amid a frustrating market, many biodiesel makers across the U.S. say they will likely call it quits and cease production when the credit ends.

The largest biodiesel refinery, located in Houston, Tex. has already shut down.  Another large refinery, located in Hoquiam, Wash. has been shut down as well, following a December explosion. 

However, it's not just big businesses that are cutting biofuel production and jobs.  Small businesses are also suffering.  Dwight Francis of Valliant, Okla. launched a new biodiesel venture earlier this year when the local timber economy tanked.  He was producing 12,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel per week by mid-year, and his business was viable, thanks to the $1/gallon tax credit.  Now with the credit gone, he says he's shutting down the promising startup.

He bemoans, "By the time you buy the feedstock and the chemicals to produce the fuel, you have more money in it than you get for the fuel without the tax credit.  We won't be producing any without the tax credit."

Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protections Agency have set the ambitious benchmark of producing 36 billion gallons of home-grown biofuel a year by 2022, reducing dependence on volatile foreign oil.  The prospects of achieving that goal now look bleak, according to government officials.  States Robert McCormick, principal engineer at the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, "You could say the entire biofuels industry has had a rough year."

Despite these setbacks both optimism and debate on biofuels remains high.  Many liken the departure from traditional gas combustion to EVs, fuel cell vehicles, and biofuel vehicles to be similar to other past modern technological breakthroughs such as the computer, internet, airplane, and railroad.  These past innovations only reached consumers thanks to massive subsidies and investment of both money and land from the U.S. federal government.  Many argue that similar investments are needed to allow the alternative energy transportation industry to reach viability.  The real question, many say, is which candidate(s) is/are best to invest in (EVs, fuel cells, and/or biofuels) and when and how much should be invested.


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Nat Gas
By pityme on 1/4/2010 12:41:43 PM , Rating: 2
The real answer is to convert more of the trucks, trains, and even cars to Nat Gas powered. Less pollution than oil or diesel, a path to self sufficiency, and even less expensive. Unfortunately, Obama has been told to believe that Natural Gas is an evil fuel. It is the short term answer and when the CO2 scrubbing technology for nat gas matures, this will very very clearly be the answer for the next 20 - 30 years. Hopefully, battery/capacitor/fusion tech will be mature and competive by this time. Currently, electric does not make sense. I cannot wait until the battery users modify their cars with big surround sound speakers and crank up the music. Lots of e cars stalled on the road. Maybe invest in towing companies.




RE: Nat Gas
By Connoisseur on 1/4/2010 3:10:29 PM , Rating: 1
Okay seriously I keep hearing about how natural gas is cleaner than petroleum. From Wikipedia.:

quote:
"Natural gas is often described as the cleanest fossil fuel, producing less carbon dioxide per joule delivered than either coal or oil.[11], and far fewer pollutants than other fossil fuels. However, in absolute terms it does contribute substantially to global carbon emissions, and this contribution is projected to grow. According to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (Working Group III Report, Chapter 4), in 2004 natural gas produced about 5,300 Mt/yr of CO2 emissions, while coal and oil produced 10,600 and 10,200 respectively (Figure 4.4); but by 2030, according to an updated version of the SRES B2 emissions scenario, natural gas would be the source of 11,000 Mt/yr, with coal and oil now 8,400 and 17,200 respectively.[22] (Total global emissions for 2004 were estimated at over 27,200 Mt.) In addition, natural gas itself is a greenhouse gas (methane) far more potent than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere, although released in much smaller quantities. Natural gas is mainly composed of methane, which has a radiative forcing twenty times greater than carbon dioxide. This means a ton of methane in the atmosphere traps in as much radiation as 20 tons of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide still receives the lion's share of attention over greenhouse gases because it is released in much larger amounts."


Doesn't really strike me that natural gas is a real alternative. It's just replacing one greenhouse gas with another, much more potent greenhouse gas. Now, bear in mind that I got this from wikipedia. Please correct me if some misinformation is posted on there.


RE: Nat Gas
By knutjb on 1/4/2010 11:52:04 PM , Rating: 2
You are placing more credibility on co2 as a problem than those of us in the real world. It apparently escapes you that to move to a practical clean energy will take decades and a real replacement of our current fuels requires a real alternative which doesn't currently exist. The government cannot make it happen because of committees and politics. The free market works best and the article proves my point:
quote:
He was producing 12,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel per week by mid-year, and his business was viable, thanks to the $1/gallon tax credit.
So in reality it was never viable in the first place without government corporate welfare. All of which, both large and small, must end.

I'm all for research in new sources. Just because it works in a lab doesn't mean it can stand on it's own without subsidies. If it can't stand on it's own it's not a replacement.

I think the only government agency that might be able to find a solution is DARPA but I don't see that happening anytime soon. Why DARPA, they have something politicians don't have, imagination, along with the marked absence of lobbyists.


"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il














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