October 16, 2005

Bio-diesel - You Be the Judge

You be the judge - Dr. Lenny's notes are in red. If you wish to be part of a southern oregon biodiesel group - please mention that when you make comment.

Free Market Solution

Government should step aside for biodiesel, study says a new paper on biodiesel policy suggests that eliminating government interventions is more important than offering incentives for the vegetable oil-based fuel."Biodiesel legislation has focused on financial incentives and use mandates, while failing to address major government-imposed obstacles.
In fact, biodiesel makes sense on so many levels that it doesn't need help from the government; it just needs the government to get out of the way," said Angela Eckhardt, author of Freedom Fuel: How and Why Biodiesel Policy Should Reflect Freedom.Eckhardt is director of the Rural Oregon Freedom Project at the free market think tank Cascade Policy Institute.
Two years ago, her family began making biodiesel out of used fryer grease at a cost of about $.50 a gallon. The retail cost of biodiesel is typically more expensive than petroleum diesel, due largely to the price of fresh vegetable oil. Eckhardt says the price of vegetable oil will come down as more farmers start producing oil crops, but farm subsidies encourage farmers to grow other crops or not to grow crops at all. She recommends an elimination of farm subsidies coupled with a thorough review and elimination of agriculture regulations that hinder farmers.(!?)
Biodiesel sales regulations and taxes also contribute to the higher retail cost, she said. "There should be nothing to stop a farmer from selling the excess biodiesel that he produces to his neighbors or community without government oversight," Eckhardt said, noting that the alternative fuel has been proved safe for vehicles and the environment.
Eckhardt said another major stumbling block for biodiesel is the lack of affordable diesel vehicles in America, caused in part by environmental regulations, such as California's emission control standards that Oregon and Washington are on track to adopt. "Instead of treating diesels like the scourge of the automotive industry, we need to consider the diesel engine's potential as an environmental and economic solution," Eckhardt said.
Eckhardt calls biodiesel a "liberating solution" and encourages all biodiesel-related policy to reflect that theme. "There is a reason the terms '#8216;fuel' and '#8216;power' also have political application. Petroleum can't be obtained by just anyone so it is ripe for control," Eckhardt said. "Biodiesel can literally put power into the hands of every American."
"Given the history of petroleum politics, it is imperative that today's policy decisions ensure a free market for biodiesel. Producers of all sizes must be free to compete in this industry," she said.
Freedom Fuel: How and Why Biodiesel Policy Should Reflect Freedom is available online at www.cascadepolicy.org or by calling 503-242-0900. Eckhardt may be reached by email at angela@cascadepolicy.org.

The bureaucrats response:

While we (the Oregon Department of Agriculture and other state agencies) share the enthusiasm for biodiesel shown by Angela Eckhardt and others, it is important that all parties have a common understanding of motor fuel quality. Some may feel this is restrictive, but for a new fuel to be accepted by consumers, it is imperative that it not cause problems, and biodiesel has some different qualities that are important to understand. Here's a note from ODA's Measurement Standards Division, responsible for ensuring motor fuel quality in Oregon:
* * *Modern diesel engines have more stringent operating parameters than their predecessors and thus the nature and quality of the fuel that they operate on is very important to provide satisfactory performance and not cause damage to the vehicle's fuel system or engine. The vehicle and engine manufacturers state in the operator's manual what fuel the engine is designed to operate on and what they will warranty and what they will not, which of course varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established quality standards for biodiesel blend-stock (100% biodiesel). The reference for this standard is ASTM D 6751. This sets the minimum standards that 100% biodiesel blend-stock must meet and helps assure uniform quality. The quality of the biodiesel, or any motor fuel for that matter, is very important to vehicle manufacturers, engine manufacturers, fuel (biodiesel) producers, marketers, and consumers to help assure satisfactory performance and fair competition.
In similar fashion, ordinary petroleum #2 diesel fuel must meet ASTM D 975 quality standards. Again, this establishes minimum standards that #2 diesel fuel must meet for the same reasons as noted above for biodiesel blend-stock. It is expected that any blend of petroleum #2 diesel fuel and biodiesel blend-stock together meet ASTM 975 diesel fuel quality standards. In addition, the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) has adopted biodiesel fuel quality standards (which includes ASTM 975 and ASTM 6751 fuel standards), pump labeling requirements, and fuel delivery documentation requirements.
These are the model (?!) regulations for biodiesel fuel sold in commerce. By the fuels meeting the minimum quality standards, a level of assurance is provided to producers, marketers, vehicle and engine manufacturers, and consumers that the vehicles will operate properly on the fuel and fair competition for the businesses.
If you are producing fuels for personal use, then these standards do not necessarily apply, however, you accept the risk. If you are providing fuel to the public, these standards apply. I hope that this is helpful to you.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact ODA's Measurement Standards Division:
Clark CooneyXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXTelephone:XXX503-986-4677
Assistant Administrator/XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXFax:XXXXXXXX503-986-4784
Metrology Laboratory ManagerXXXXXXXXXXXTTY:XXXXXXXX503-986-4762
Measurement Standards DivisionXXXXXXXOregon Department of Agriculture

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