Biodiesel bill a plus for farmers

Jun 21, 2004 02:00 AM

by Patrick Jackson

Jim Minner knows a thing or two about soybeans, diesel engines and soy diesel fuel.
Minner, the Delaware Department of Transportation's fleet equipment manager and a soybean farmer on the side, is all for passage of a bill that would require the state's service stations to exclusively sell a soy diesel mix starting in 2006.

Senate Bill 321, which Gov. Ruth Ann Minner called for in her State of the State address, is designed to help clean the air by reducing pollution from diesel engines. The bill has been approved by the Senate and now is awaiting consideration in the House. The legislation also would aid soybean farmers by expanding the market for their crops, and comes as a company gets ready to build an estimated $ 8.2 mm soy diesel production plant in Clayton. Jim Minner said he and other farmers sell the bulk of their product to the poultry industry, where beans are ground up for feed.
"That would be tremendous for all the farmers," he said. "It would help us by letting us go out, compete and get the best price for our product. As it stands now, we're kind of a captive business."

The bill would require service stations to sell only an 80-20 mix of soy diesel. The fuel is made by blending diesel oil with a vegetable oil such as soybean oil or animal fat. The material helps replace sulphur as a lubricant in diesel fuel and reduces emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and soot.
The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harris B. McDowell III, D-Wilmington North, arose from a task force that studied energy issues.

"It helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and it's a boost to our farming industry," McDowell said. It would add about 2 cents a gallon to the price of fuel, according to estimates provided to the Senate.
That bothered Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover South.
"I think the idea is good. I think we're all for helping farmers and a clean environment," Bonini said. "But I think we need to be honest and say we're putting a 2-cent-per-gallon tax on it, and that troubles me because I think fuel prices are high enough without our help."

Gary Patterson, a lobbyist for the Delaware Petroleum Council, said his group was concerned about whether there would be a sufficient supply of fuel, and whether Delaware would be at a price disadvantage that might send motorists to neighbouring states to fill up. McDowell said he thought supply would not be an issue and the price would come down as more of the fuel comes into use.
Sussex County agri-businessman Martin Ross said his group, the Mid-Atlantic Biodiesel Co., has won a conditional use permit to build the plant on a five-acre site off School Lane in Clayton, next door to Clayton Elementary School and the town's Southern States store. Ross said the plant would produce up to 5 mm gallons of biodiesel annually.

Rep. Joe Di Pinto, R-Wilmington West, is shepherding the bill through the House and said he is confident he can guide the bill to the governor's desk.
"When you look atwhat it can do by way of reducing pollution and helping with energy independence, it can make a difference," Gov. Minner said. "I hope the House will follow the Senate's lead and send this to me."
Di Pinto said he will amend the measure to push back its effective date from January to July 2006.
"I am hopeful we will be able to address some of the technical concerns about this and get it passed," he said.

Among those concerns are the fuel's shelf life in items such as generators, which can sometimes go for extended periods without use. DelDOT has operated diesel-powered equipment, including generators, on soy diesel on an experimental basis since 1999. Jim Minner said it works well. He said the fuel is good for engines because, in addition to being a natural lubricant, soy diesel cleans and flushes impurities from engines.
"At some of the higher mixtures or with 100 % biodiesel fuel, there have been problems with separation," he said. "But at the mix we use and that the bill would require, it hasn't been a problem."

Source: Delaware Online
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