Biodiesel emissions under microscope in Texas

| 11/28/2006

Biodiesel producers in Texas are gearing up for a big meeting next week.

They must prove to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that their biodiesel meets the strict emissions standards outlined in November 2005 in the Texas Low Emissions Diesel program, commonly known as TxLED.

The Texas biodiesel industry is nearing the end of a grace period granted by the commission in February this year to bring forward proof of the fuel's emissions in line with TxLED.

The subject is nitrogen oxide emissions - known as NOx - and whether an additive is needed in biodiesel for the fuel to meet the TxLED standards.

Commissioners will convene for a public meeting, 9:30 a.m. CST, Dec. 8, at commission headquarters, Room 201 S, Building E, 12100 Park 35 Circle, Austin, TX.

The meeting is open to the public.

Invited are industry stakeholders who will present information that other states do not question - that biodiesel has low NOx emissions.

Eastern Texas has been concerned - particularly in metro Dallas-Fort Worth and the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria County corridor - about pollution.

The environmental commission stepped in last year and created the TxLED standard for all diesel fuels. During that process, the commission began questioning the NOx emissions of biodiesel.

"The crucial issue is going to be whether or not biodiesel increases the NOx - the nitrogen oxide - from an engine," commission spokesman Andy Saenz told Land Line Magazine. "Air quality is a major issue in the eastern part of Texas where this biodiesel is to be sold, so our concerns are, are we allowing a fuel that will increase air pollution in the two largest metropolitan areas in the state."

The TxLED mandate affects 110 Texas counties.

Saenz said the commission will look at the latest studies to make a decision about whether to further extend the timeline for producers to meet NOx standards, or to settle the issue once and for all that Texas biodiesel meets the standards.

"This has been a big issue," Saenz said. "Everybody's trying to get to the same place - to offer a reliable fuel source for the country, but do it in a way that doesn't increase air pollution."

The public meeting will be online for viewing at during the specified time.

Last week, biodiesel promoter and country music legend Willie Nelson urged XM Satellite Radio listeners to call the Texas governor's office to urge that the state not ban biodiesel sales.

Nelson is a principal owner of a biodiesel product called "Biowillie" and markets the fuel in Texas.

A spokeswoman for the governor told Land Line Magazine that she was unaware of any plans to outlaw the renewable fuel, but that the environmental commission was monitoring the latest developments in emissions standards.

- By David Tanner, staff writer