COLUMBIA — Gov. Matt Blunt touted the benefits of a biodiesel bill Feb. 15 that he said will spur economic growth, bolster national security and benefit the environment.
The bill would require that all diesel fuel sold after April 1, 2010, be 5-percent biodiesel-blended fuel. That means 5 percent of the fuel by volume would be made from soybeans.
“Our state has great potential in the emerging renewable fuels industry, and if the fields of Missouri’s farm families are to become the oil fields of the 21st century, we need to enact policies that allow us to position ourselves at the forefront of this thriving industry,” Blunt said.
Missouri already produces enough biodiesel for the standard to take effect, said Missouri Soybean Association spokesman Adam Buckalew. He said the association estimates Missouri produces 125 million gallons per year, and it would only take 55 million to 60 million gallons to fulfill the standard.
Dave Krusemark, a soybean farmer and District 3 director of the association, said biodiesel helps engines run better because of increased lubrication.
“As much a producer as a dad whose son rides the school bus, it makes a big difference,” Krusemark said. “The exhaust is cleaner and emissions are greatly reduced.”
Blunt said a 5-percent biodiesel mix would reduce particulate emissions by 15.4 million pounds a year and carbon monoxide emissions by 168 million pounds per year.
Krusemark also said the association supports the portion of the bill that would allow distributors not to blend biodiesel if it is more expensive than regular diesel fuel. He said producers have a guaranteed 5 percent of the market and that it is an incentive to keep the prices low.
And biodiesel can be expensive to make.
Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, said 7.7 pounds of soybean oil are required to make a gallon of biodiesel. A pound of soybean oil costs 50 cents, meaning the raw materials for a gallon of biodiesel cost $3.85. After factoring in production costs, it has to be sold for more than $4 a gallon to make a profit.
How Missouri’s bill would affect the biodiesel market depends on whether provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act stand, Westhoff said. The act, passed in December, requires that 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol and 1 billion gallons of other biofuel be utilized by 2012.
“If we have the federal mandate in place, then the 5-percent requirement is not as important as it would be if we did not have the billion-gallon mandate in place,” Westhoff said. “The main thing is 5-percent mandate means more of the production will stay in Missouri.”
If the federal mandate were waived, which the Environmental Protection Agency could do, the 5-percent mandate would result in more biodiesel use in Missouri than in other states.
Minnesota is currently the only state that mandates biodiesel use. Buckalew said the biodiesel industry is still in its infancy.
Missouri is the third state to have an ethanol standard for gas. As of the beginning of the year, 10 percent of gas sold is ethanol.