U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   03/20/2003
Joe Jobe
Executive Director
National Biodiesel Board

Alternative fuels and fuel additives

Thank you, Chairman Inhofe and the Members of the Environment and Public Works Committee for the opportunity to submit comments regarding the environmental and energy benefits of biodiesel.

As Executive Director of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), it is my pleasure to inform the Committee of the benefits of biodiesel and to encourage its inclusion in major legislation before this committee. NBB is the nonprofit entity which serves as the central coordinating body for biodiesel research and development in the United States.

Biodiesel is a cleaner burning alternative fuel made from renewable fats and oils such as soybean oil. It has become the fastest growing alternative fuel in the United States, with more than 300 major fleets using biodiesel today to address air quality concerns and meet federal alternative fuel requirements. A compelling reason for this growth is that virtually everyone benefits from biodiesel use. It significantly reduces harmful emissions, making it better for the environment and better for human health. It comes from domestically produced, renewable resources, thus contributing to domestic energy security. A thriving biodiesel industry also contributes to our own economy rather than that of the Middle East. Biodiesel is one of the most thoroughly tested fuels on the market today with more than 50 million successful road miles, thousands of off-road and marine hours, and data on virtually every diesel engine type and application.

The EPA recently released a new comprehensive technical report of biodiesel emissions that validates the substantial body of existing biodiesel technical data. The EPA report shows biodiesel use can reduce emissions of particulate matter by 47 percent when compared to petroleum diesel in unmodified diesel engines. The report also verified a 67 percent reduction in unburned hydrocarbons, a contributing factor in the localized formation of smog and ozone; and a 48 percent reduction in the poisonous gas carbon monoxide. Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) is the only category of diesel engine emissions for which biodiesel does not provide significant benefits. However, as a boiler fuel, biodiesel has shown great promise in dramatically reducing NOx.

Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. The results show biodiesel reduces EPA-targeted air toxics and their corresponding risks of cancer, asthma and other ailments when compared to petroleum diesel. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) and Nitrated Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (nPAH) are compounds believed to cause cancer from diesel engine exhaust. Pure biodiesel reduces most PAH compounds by 80 percent and nPAH compounds by 90 percent.

Biodiesel can help cities across the nation meet clean air requirements and can be used immediately to help improve the air our children breathe every day when they ride diesel powered buses to school. Biodiesel reduces harmful black smoke and other toxic compounds from diesel exhaust by simply changing the fuel in existing buses, rather than by making tremendous expenditures for new buses and fueling stations.

The “energy balance” of a fuel is an important indicator of its effectiveness in displacing fossil fuel with renewable fuel. According to a DOE/USDA lifecycle analysis, biodiesel has the highest energy balance of any fuel. For every one unit of fossil fuel it takes to produce biodiesel, 3.2 units of energy are gained. That same study concluded that biodiesel also results in a 78% lifecycle reduction in carbon dioxide. This means that biodiesel is the single most effective greenhouse gas mitigation technology currently available for heavy duty vehicles and equipment.

Biodiesel can be used in its pure form or blended with petroleum diesel at any level. The most common blend is 20 percent biodiesel mixed with 80 percent diesel, or B20. The comprehensive EPA report shows more incremental emissions benefits are achieved at the B20 level than with B100. While it remains true that maximum emissions reduction per vehicle can be obtained with B100, the EPA analysis shows that using B20 in 100 vehicles will actually reduce more pollution overall than using B100 in 20 vehicles.

Biodiesel is included as an eligible fuel in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as would be established by S. 385 legislation introduced by Senators Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Dick Lugar (R-IN). While ethanol is poised to displace significant volumes of gasoline under this initiative, biodiesel is well-positioned to play a valuable role in current and future diesel technology.

The EPA’s 2006 sulfur standards for diesel fuel will require a 97% reduction in sulfur, and create significant changes for heavy-duty diesel technology. The removal of sulfur will allow aftertreatment technology that is otherwise fouled by sulfur, and will dramatically reduce diesel exhaust emissions. The EPA’s rule will also create a fuel performance problem, because the refinery process used to remove sulfur also removes lubricity. Lubricity is the lubricating characteristic in diesel fuel necessary to keep diesel fuel injection systems functioning properly. Biodiesel is well-positioned to address this issue, because it has essentially no sulfur, it already meets the EPA’s 2006 sulfur standard, and it is highly effective as a renewable lubricity additive. For example, the addition of less than 2% biodiesel, can improve lubricity by as much as 65%. This rule will cause a shift in the driving forces for the continued development of heavy-duty diesel fuels. The shift will be away from such a strong focus on nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, to place more of an emphasis on energy security, renewability, and the reduction of air toxics and greenhouse gases. These are all issues that biodiesel addresses better than any other heavy duty fuel currently available.

Policy initiatives aimed at providing incentives for increased renewable fuel use have shown great promise in the United States and Europe. The United States desperately needs a more diversified energy portfolio, and we encourage the committee to consider biodiesel as an important part of its comprehensive energy strategy.