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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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RE: Impacted food prices
By sinful on 1/4/2010 9:23:43 PM , Rating: 1
Department of Defense (DoD) stateside has been mandated by the Congress to use as much alternative fuel as they can, in order to decrease the dependance on foreign oil imports. Doesn't matter that E85 gives about 2/3 the mileage that unleaded gasoline does,

So, in other words, if given the choice of
A) Reducing foreign oil consumption by 85%, almost completely breaking us away from buying oil from Iran, Saudia Arabia, while dumping all that money into the hands of farmers the price of a higher cost at the pump, OR

B) Being completely owned by OPEC and shipping your money out of the country (only to read about what new world wonder they're building in Dubai this week)...all for the savings of a hundred bucks/year ....

you would absolutely chose option "B" everytime? Really?!

IMHO, you complain about government corruption, etc, but it sounds like your "buyoff" cost is a LOT lower than that of congress.


RE: Impacted food prices
By Cerin218 on 1/5/2010 11:01:11 AM , Rating: 2
You act like there is not oil to be had anywhere in the US. If we would use our own, we wouldn't have to use theirs.

RE: Impacted food prices
By sinful on 1/5/2010 2:28:27 PM , Rating: 2
You act like there is not oil to be had anywhere in the US. If we would use our own, we wouldn't have to use theirs.

Uh, right, let's do the math:

US Oil Consumption: 20M barrels/day
US Oil Production : 5M barrels/day
Estimated extra Oil Production if we opened ANWR: 1.4M barrels/day

So, even if we "Drill Baby Drill", we'd be producing less than 30% of what we need.

The only way to "use our own and not use theirs" is if we magically reduced our oil consumption by like 75%.

Man, if only there was a fuel that was something like 85% Ethanol or something....

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