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Pa. House Okay's Biodiesel 'Kick-start'

Independence Day action sends pro-farming bill to Senate.

While nothing is a 'lock' in political circles until signed by a governor, Pennsylvania's House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a multi-year $650 million alternative energy initiative that would be a boon to diesel fuel users in the commonwealth. And they did it on July 4. Representative David Kessler, secretary of the House Ag and Rural Affairs Committee, explains:

The legislation would provide a 75-cent-per-gallon incentive for in-state production of biodiesel – if sold in Pennsylvania. This subsidy would be capped at $5.3 million statewide per year and would last only three years.

With this temporary subsidy, says Kessler, "Our estimates show that biodiesel plants would become profitable within three years, if not before. And, the price of this home-grown fuel is projected to become lower than what petroleum-derived diesel costs today."

Several biodiesel plants in the state produce the fuel. But most, according to Kessler, are running well below capacity because they can't compete with prices offered by out-of-state plants that get large state subsidies.

"Home-grown biodiesel can be used in place of increasingly expensive home heating oil. It burns 80% more cleanly and is more efficient," he adds. "Increasing our biodiesel supply is also important because future diesel and diesel-electric hybrid cars will probably replace many of today's gasoline-powered cars."

Biodiesel can be produced from numerous crops, plus animal fats and even algae – not just soybeans. And it provides a by-product that can be fed to farm animals.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the PennFuture environmental organization support the legislation.

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