Biodiesel board says Texas fuel will meet strict standards

| Friday, December 01, 2006

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 Austin, TX.

The meeting is open to the public and will be Web cast live at www.tceq.state.tx.us.

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 about that."

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
david_tanner@landlinemag.com

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