Biodiesel industry officials are "cautiously optimistic"
about an upcoming meeting that could determine the fate of biodiesel in almost
half of the counties in Texas.
Industry officials will meet Friday, Dec. 8, with the
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to prove that biodiesel produced in Texas meets the strict emissions standards outlined in the Texas Low Emissions Diesel
program issued in November 2005.
That standard was designed to reduce pollution in the
eastern corridor of the Lone Star State, including the metro areas of
Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. It includes 110 of the state's 254 counties
The future of Texas biodiesel, at least in terms of how far
biodiesel manufacturers have to go to meet the TxLED standard, is riding on
this meeting, Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board, told Land Line
Magazine this week.
The subject of the meeting will be nitrogen oxide emissions
- known as NOx - and whether an additive is needed in biodiesel for the fuel to
meet the TxLED standards.
"Biodiesel is, by its nature, a TxLED fuel," Jobe said.
"It's a low-emission diesel fuel because it has virtually no sulfur and it
meets the sulfur standard, and it's a high-cetane fuel."
Industry stakeholders will try to convince the
governor-appointed commission of that and other science relating to biodiesel
and emissions when the commission meets at 9:30 a.m. CST, Friday at
commission headquarters, Room 201 S, Building E, 12100 Park 35 Circle in
The meeting is open to the public and will be Web cast live
Jobe said some previous tests on biodiesel showed a slight
increase in NOx emissions, and that's what worried the commission last year.
But, Jobe said with relative certainty, the latest science
will show biodiesel decreases NOx emissions and that the entire biodiesel
industry in eastern Texas will not have to use additives - something that would
increase the price of their products considerably.
"The reason we're cautiously optimistic is because the facts
are on our side and we have such a very strong case," Jobe said, "and the
commissioners have recently shown a willingness to listen to our case and have
been reasonable. I'm a believer in that democratic process and I'm optimistic
Andy Saentz, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on
Environmental Quality, told Land Line earlier this week that the TxLED
standard was created for all diesel fuels and it was then that 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," Saenz said. "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."
Texas does everything big, including biodiesel. It is the
nation's largest biodiesel producer, and one of those producers is country
music legend Willie Nelson.
Nelson urged XM Satellite Radio listeners last week to call
the Texas governor's office to convince the state not restrict or ban biodiesel
sales because there was too much at stake for farmers and consumers.
Both Jobe and Saentz said they heard those pleas by Nelson,
but they said it is going to take more than a public outcry - it's going to
take hard science and the democratic process to resolve the biodiesel issue in Texas.
"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."
Jobe said the National Biodiesel Board welcomes the democratic
process, which again leads to the producers' "cautious optimism."
Should the environmental commission accept the NOx science
offered by the biodiesel producers, everything will get back to running
smoothly for the industry, Jobe said.
"If not, then we've got to take it to the 'next level' in
terms of the democratic process in getting our voices heard," Jobe said.
- By David Tanner, staff writer