As Gulf Oil Spill Grows, Biodiesel Industry Shrinks

As the country watches the oil spill in the Gulf destroy wetlands and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people, the biodiesel industry in the US is on the brink of collapse. Biodiesel is the only commercially available advanced biofuel in the US. It dramatically reduces carbon pollution, lessens our dependence on foreign oil and employs thousands in green jobs across the country. While paying lip service to US-made energy and alternative fuels, Congress and the Obama Administration allowed the federal biodiesel tax credit to expire in December 2009. In the five years since it was enacted, the energy legislation has been highly effective, leading to over 150 biodiesel plants in 44 states, 53,000 green jobs added to the economy, and billions of dollars of net tax revenue to state and federal governments, all while displacing billions of gallons of petroleum. Yet since the sunset of the biodiesel tax credit in December 2009, biodiesel producers across the country have been forced to close or severely curtail production, resulting both in the loss of good paying, “green” jobs as well as the availability of alternative fuels at reasonable costs to consumers. In fact, Blue Ridge Biofuels in Asheville is one of a handful of biodiesel producers still in operation today.

Some argue that businesses should be required to function without assistance from the government, and ultimately the public. However, current government assistance to the petroleum industry – which subsidizes a large portion of the true costs of such fuels to the tune of 9 to 17 billion dollars a year — is the chief reason why the biofuels industry needs this assistance. Without government subsidization of petroleum-based diesel fuels, the US biodiesel industry would be able to offer a competitively priced product that is not only beneficial for the environment, but also to our energy security while at the same time creating jobs in the green economy.

While Blue Ridge Biofuels is currently treading water, the biodiesel tax credit is stalled in the Senate, having passed the House in the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 (HR 4213). We in the industry and our supporters have been sending letters and making calls to our respective Senators and Representatives, but there is very little movement on the issue. We believe that if the general public were aware of the precarious state Blue Ridge Biofuels and, indeed, the entire biodiesel industry, are in, there would be much more support from our elected officials.

If there are continued delays in passage of the biodiesel tax credit, we will have lost much ground in our fight to wean ourselves from our overwhelming dependence on foreign petroleum. With the utter catastrophe that is yet unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, this would be an excellent time to highlight the benefits of alternative fuels, and raising the public’s awareness would bring much needed support to our industry. Please call your Senators and Representatives and tell them that you support the US biodiesel industry and urge them to pass the biodiesel tax credit immediately.

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