Soapbox

Obama’s EPA needs to more aggressively support biodiesel

Clay Carrillo-Miranda pumps used grease into a tanker in Fort Worth, Texas, in April. Biodiesel producers in California and elsewhere want a bigger piece of alternative fuel market.
Clay Carrillo-Miranda pumps used grease into a tanker in Fort Worth, Texas, in April. Biodiesel producers in California and elsewhere want a bigger piece of alternative fuel market. Fort Worth Star-Telegram file

California took a major step forward in the fight against climate change recently by adopting an aggressive new low carbon fuel standard that will sharply reduce carbon pollution from our state’s famously car-crazy culture.

It’s time for the Obama administration to do the same, but President Barack Obama is not using all the tools at his disposal.

California’s policy is groundbreaking. It requires refineries and other fuel suppliers to cut the carbon intensity of their fuels by at least 10 percent by 2020. The California Air Resources Board analyzed dozens of alternative fuels to determine their carbon reductions. I’m proud that the fuel my company makes, biodiesel, ranked as one of the cleanest.

Community Fuels in Stockton is one of about a dozen biodiesel producers in California, and nearly 200 across the country. We make biodiesel from a wide variety of fats and oils, and according to the Air Resources Board, our product reduces carbon emissions by at least 50 percent compared to petroleum diesel.

California should be commended for finalizing a policy that paves the way for significant growth in clean fuels such as biodiesel. The costs of pollution and climate change resulting from our dependence on fossil fuels are enormous, are borne by the public and will only grow unless we do something about it.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration appears to have no sense of urgency when it comes to cutting carbon from transportation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administers the renewable fuel standard, started in 2005 to reduce our dependence on oil.

At a time when Congress is gridlocked on climate change and the president is obstructed by Capitol Hill, the EPA has the authority under current law to significantly increase the requirements for advanced biofuels under the renewable fuel standard. Yet in its most recent proposal, covering the next three years, the EPA has proposed barely any growth at all. For biodiesel, the proposal would require 1.9 billion gallons for 2017 – only slightly higher than what the industry delivered in 2013 and far below the production capacity.

Biodiesel enjoys strong bipartisan support in Congress, as demonstrated in July when nearly 40 senators, including Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, wrote the EPA calling for stronger biodiesel growth. It would certainly help California achieve its goals under the low carbon fuel standard.

I have yet to hear a good reason why the EPA is taking such a tepid approach. As a candidate, Obama campaigned on a strong commitment to renewable fuels, and in the Senate, he authored legislation calling for far more aggressive biodiesel growth.

I am hopeful that California’s bold actions – and the renewed attention to climate change prompted by the United Nations convention in Paris in December – will prompt the president and EPA to revamp their proposal with real biofuels growth that makes a difference.

Lisa Mortenson is co-founder and CEO of Community Fuels, a biodiesel producer based in Stockton.

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