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Biodiesel supporters: Grassroots action needed to advance biofuels

Biodiesel supporters: Grassroots action needed to advance biofuels
Leaders at the National Biodiesel Conference in Fort Worth say grassroots action is needed to help deliver certainty to the Renewable Fuel Standard

Renewable fuel supporters gathered this week at the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo in Fort Worth, Texas, were encouraged to share the importance of the advanced biofuel industry to legislators in Washington, D.C.

Related: Biodiesel industry says RFS uncertainty a reason for lower 2014 production

Anne Steckel, National Biodiesel Board vice president of federal affairs, said biodiesel advocates already are working to advance biofuels through grassroots advocacy, coalition building, and public outreach, all in effort to "make our case, loud, clear, and consistently," she said.

Leaders at the National Biodiesel Conference in Fort Worth say grassroots action is needed to help deliver certainty to the Renewable Fuel Standard

"We do that by strengthening our collective voice – getting more members involved, and empowering you to advocate for yourselves – because we can't do it without you," she noted.

Steckel said a year of "dysfunction and pessimism" in Washington often felt like the industry was "stuck in a bad movie."

"There was this manufactured suspense from the repeated delays in the RFS volumes, and every time we felt like the ending was coming, the directors threw in another unnecessary twist to string out the plot," Steckel said. "And we still haven't seen the credits roll."

The U.S. EPA initially proposed in November 2013 to hold the 2014 RFS biodiesel volume at 1.28 billion gallons. The agency subsequently withheld a final rule and has still not established 2014 volumes. An EPA official told legislators late last year that those numbers wouldn't arrive until sometime in 2015.

The continued uncertainty throughout the year has left the industry in a state of limbo, biofuel supporters say, though many biodiesel companies have continued producing fuel based on assurances from the Obama Administration that RFS volumes would increase.

"Washington's failure to act is creating serious damage in the real world," Steckel said.

At the conference, Steckel was joined on stage by several former lawmakers who have helped advance renewable fuels policy, including Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-S.D., Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., and Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt.

Related: EPA Official Unable to Share Release Date for 2014 RFS Final Volumes

While acknowledging recent growth domestic oil production, Blunt discussed his experience as a Naval officer and understanding that energy is a matter of national security. Increased drilling on American shores does not make the country immune to global oil market pressures, he noted.

"Energy security is not simply more oil. More U.S. oil does not change the fact that prices are set globally based on international factors that go far beyond simple supply and demand," Blunt said.

Steckel stressed the importance of organizing biodiesel's many significant benefits into effective public policy.

"Strong biodiesel policy is something that the public supports, and that helps us as a nation achieve our collective goals for creating U.S. jobs, cleaning the air, and reducing our dangerous dependence on one global commodity – oil," she said.

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