The U.S. biodiesel industry reached a key milestone by producing more than 1 billion gallons of fuel in 2011, according to year-end numbers released by the EPA on Friday.
The total volume of nearly 1.1 billion gallons is by far a record for the industry and easily exceeded the 800 million gallon target required under the EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The previous record for biodiesel production was about 690 million gallons in 2008.
"We've been seeing a lot of stories about setbacks in the renewable energy sector recently, and I think our success in 2011 reflects the bigger picture reality, which is that strong energy policy is working to stimulate production of clean, American-made energy," says Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board (NBB).
"Specifically, our success clearly demonstrates that the biodiesel tax incentive and the Renewable Fuel Standard are working just as Congress envisioned," Steckel adds. "Our industry is creating jobs, reducing our dependence on imported fuel, and improving the environment."
A recent economic study commissioned by NBB found that biodiesel production of 1 billion gallons supports 39,027 jobs across the country and more than $2.1 billion in household income. An additional 11,698 jobs could be added between 2012 and 2013 alone under continued growth in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and with an extension of the biodiesel tax incentive.
"Now is not the time to be second-guessing the RFS or eliminating the biodiesel tax incentive," Steckel says. "We're proving that the policies work, that American innovation and competitiveness can pull us away from our dangerous dependence on imported fuel. Just as President Obama said in his State of the Union this week, we need to stay the course to continue creating jobs and building America's energy capacity."
The biodiesel industry's success in 2011 comes after Congress reinstated the fuel's $1-per-gallon tax credit in December 2010 and as the EPA's RFS program for biodiesel completed its first full year of implementation. Without those policies in place in 2010, production dropped dramatically as dozens of plants shuttered and thousands of people lost jobs.
The tax incentive has since expired again, on December 31, 2011, and the biodiesel industry is urging Congress to reinstate it. In addition, the industry is calling on the EPA and the Obama Administration to finalize the EPA's proposal to boost the biodiesel volume requirement under the RFS to 1.28 billion gallons in 2013.
The latest EPA numbers show that a record 160 million gallons of Biomass-based Diesel were produced in December alone.
Biodiesel is the first and only commercial-scale fuel used across the U.S. to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's definition as an Advanced Biofuel. It is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines and meets a strict ASTM fuel specification. Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as agricultural oils, recycled cooking oil and animal fats, it is produced in nearly every state in the country.