Hurricanes have devastated whole swaths of our country, in areas that host a majority of the country’s critical energy infrastructure. The need to solidify our energy infrastructure and increase domestic energy supplies will only continue to grow as we face an alarming increase in extreme weather events. Biodiesel is a solution to this and to many of our nation’s biggest challenges, such as the need for creating more jobs in rural America, enhancing U.S. energy security from supply disruptions and keeping our air and waters clean.
Biodiesel is a homegrown, renewable fuel that is produced from many different sources, from soybeans to animal fats to recycled cooking grease that is often discarded by restaurants. Instead of remaining a waste without a purpose, biodiesel has spurred new technologies to convert these products into clean, sustainable fuels to power vehicles and heat homes across the country.
Missouri is the second highest biodiesel-producing state, behind only Iowa. We produced roughly 200 million gallons in 2016, and we owe nearly 6,400 jobs in the state to biodiesel.
The primary driver of the domestic biodiesel industry in the United States is a policy known as the Renewable Fuel Standard or RFS. The RFS was designed to drive growth in the American supply of biofuels, including biodiesel. The law requires higher volumes of biofuels to be blended into the nation’s transportation fuel supply.
An overwhelming majority of lawmakers created this bipartisan policy more than a decade ago in response to the threats to U.S. energy security and supplies. It is also an economic driver for job creation in rural America. Each year, the Environmental Protection Agency sets the volumes to be blended into the U.S. fuel stream. The program was intended to provide certainty to support increased production of renewable fuels.
Unfortunately, the current volumes being proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration are a step back in our nation’s commitment to biodiesel. The EPA’s proposal would fail to raise the levels of biodiesel in the transportation fuel supply in 2019, and would take other steps to decrease overall levels of biodiesel. The proposed new RFS requires fewer gallons of biodiesel blended into our nation’s fuel supply than we know the American biodiesel industry can produce. In fact, the amount of biodiesel required by this proposed rule for 2018-2019 is less than the industry actually produced back in 2015.
These proposed numbers are an affront to our industry and to those who have risked everything to make the RFS a success. These volumes impact business decisions that involve layoffs and closures. And this proposal threatens many of the 64,000 high-quality biodiesel jobs, often in small counties that have no other industry. The fact that biodiesel creates good jobs and diversifies our domestic energy supplies should make our government invest more heavily in it, not less.
These benefits are threatened without higher volumes in the Renewable Fuel Standard. Unfortunately, the numbers that the EPA proposed send a chilling message that the agency is not interested in promoting growth in biofuels in accordance with the law. This will discourage future investment and cause a contraction in the industry.
On behalf of the many people whose livelihood depends on the biodiesel industry, I am asking our elected leaders in Washington and you as their constituents to urge the EPA and the White House to increase the proposed volumes of biodiesel in the RFS and to allow the domestic industry to continue to grow and expand.
We stand ready to respond — giving American consumers choices at the pump, increasing our nation’s energy security, and creating even more jobs and economic opportunities in rural communities across Missouri and the rest of the nation.
Donnell Rehagan is chief executive officer of the National Biodiesel Board, whose headquarters is in Jefferson City.