Biodiesel producers cut back due to US policies, report says

Almost eight in 10 biodiesel producers in the United States have cut back production this year due to uncertainty over federal policies that encourage making the fuels, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) said.

The report released Wednesday was based on a survey the NBB conducted. In addition to the finding that 78 percent of producers reduced output, 57 percent of companies have idle or shut down plants and 66 percent have reduced their workforces or are considering it.

Almost all of the surveyed companies attribute the industry’s decline to two recent policy developments: the expiration at the end of last year of the tax credit to produce biodiesel and a proposal last year by the Environmental Protection Agency not to increase the biodiesel mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

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“Inconsistency in Washington is wreaking havoc on the U.S. biodiesel industry,” Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs, said in a statement.

At a Wednesday press conference announcing the results on Capitol Hill, six Democratic senators called for renewal of the tax credit and an increase in the biodiesel mandate.

“If you look at what this industry depends on from the United States Congress, it’s certainty. It’s some measure of consistency in public policy,” said Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampRand's reversal advances Pompeo Overnight Health Care: Teen pregnancy program to focus on abstinence | Insurers warn against short-term health plan proposal | Trump VA pick faces tough sell Overnight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit MORE (D-N.D.). “And I have to tell you, on that score, we’ve failed miserably.”

Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinPompeo faces pivotal vote To succeed in Syria, Democrats should not resist Trump policy Hannity, Kimmel, Farrow among Time's '100 Most Influential' MORE (D-Ill.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Cybersecurity: Senators eye path forward on election security bill | Facebook isn't winning over privacy advocates | New hacks target health care Senators chart path forward on election security bill GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees MORE (D-Minn.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken to make first public appearance since resignation Overnight Cybersecurity: Fallout from Comey memos | IG reportedly investigating memos over classified info | DNC sues Russia, Trump campaign | GOP chair blasts FDIC over data security Why Smokin' Joe leads the pack of 2020 Democratic hopefuls MORE (D-Minn.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRand's reversal advances Pompeo Overnight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit Pompeo headed for confirmation after surprise panel vote MORE (D-Ind.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellKamala Harris will no longer accept corporate PAC money Can Silicon Valley expect European-style regulation here at home? Lobbying World MORE (D-Wash.) also spoke at the event.

The biodiesel tax credit provides $1 per gallon of diesel produced from biomass, such as vegetable oil or animal fat. It expired at the end of last year, but the tax break package the Senate will vote on this week would renew it for two more years.

The EPA proposed in November to mandate that diesel refiners blend 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel into their products in 2014, the same level as 2013. The industry produced 1.8 billion gallons in 2013, so that amounts to a reduction in volume, the NBB said.

The senators said those policies put thousands of jobs at risk, as well as the United States’ energy security and the environmental benefits of biofuels.

“We want to make sure that biofuels are included in the future when it comes to America’s energy,” Durbin said. “When there’s uncertainty about the future of biofuels, there’s uncertainty about these jobs.”

Klobuchar and Franken said Minnesota officials have estimated that the EPA’s biodiesel mandate would cause the state to lose 1,500 jobs.

“We can’t back off our commitment to renewable biofuels,” Franken said.

The EPA has not yet finalized the biodiesel blending mandate.

The oil industry praised the November proposal from the EPA, saying it recognizes the reduced demand for renewable fuels and the high costs to refiners. But they are still pushing for permanent changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, including eliminating it altogether.