The 2021 National Biodiesel Conference and Expo happened the same week a new president was inaugurated, and that timing did not go unnoticed. From policy expectations to the environmental benefits of various fuel sources, here are our key takeaways for c-store operators from this major industry event.
Political Change Is an Opportunity for Growth
President Biden has already shown how serious his administration will be about climate change, signing two executive orders the day he was sworn in and even more since then. We should all expect renewable fuel and emissions to remain in the spotlight and be ready for changes in legislation, product usage and possible incentives throughout the supply chain.
Floyd Vergara, Director of State Governmental Affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, shared that states from coast to coast, representing over 50% of the population and 40% of on-road fuel usage, now have comprehensive carbon reduction goals. The most common goals are to reduce carbon emissions 40% by 2030 and/or 80% by 2050. The transportation industry will be a key factor in reaching those goals.
There are also many new policies being debated. New York is considering a low-carbon fuel standard similar to California’s. Many believe this is the year Washington State will pass a similar standard. Missouri is considering a biodiesel blend standard and a tax differential. And those are just a few examples.
The bottom line is this: Government regulations as well as pressure from your private sector customers with sustainability goals of their own mean offering cleaner fuels will be more important than ever.
Demand for Renewable Fuels Continues Growing
The demand for biodiesel and other renewable fuels will continue to grow — largely because of the regulations and initiatives just described.
Data shared by the National Biodiesel Board show that biodiesel is currently available at more than 2,400 major truck stops, retailers and distributors. In addition, 2019-2020 saw a 7.3% increase in Class 8 vehicles running on the newest generation of advanced diesel technology.
As Chad Stone, Chairman of the National Biodiesel Board, put it: “We’re just getting started. These fuels are designed to work in heavy-duty engines and make an environmental impact now.”
And it’s not just your fleet customers who will be looking for biodiesel blends. Dominic DiCicco, Manager of Environmental and Energy Policy for Ford Motor Company, said Ford’s most popular diesel trucks (the F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450, F-550, F-600, F-650 and F-750) support a fuel that is 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel, known as B20. Those add to a growing list of passenger vehicles that can be switched to biodiesel blends without a second thought.
Electric Is Only One Piece of the Puzzle
Interest in electric vehicles (EVs) will continue to grow, but it’s important to understand that heavy-duty vehicles will not fully convert for many more years — and we need to take action to help the environment now.
In most states, transportation is the top contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. EVs are great, but they will not be available on the scale needed for quite a while. That’s why drop-in solutions like biodiesel and renewable diesel — and a blend of the two — are worth our attention today.
Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum, shared that biodiesel and renewable diesel are exceeding EVs 4 to 1 in California for emission reductions. That’s because the grids that most EVs are charging on aren’t carbon neutral yet. Plus, it’s much faster to fill up a fuel tank than to charge a battery at this point.
A mix of energy conversion technologies using diverse carbon neutral and renewable energy sources will provide the bridge to zero emissions.
Biodiesel Quality Demands Attention
Biodiesel continues to be a high-quality fuel, and recent advancements have improved the quality even more.
Teresa Alleman, Senior Fuel Chemist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, reviewed fuel sample data from producers who participated in the BQ-9000 biodiesel quality assurance program. On the whole, they overwhelmingly exceeded ASTM specs and the higher standards of the BQ-9000 program.
Major cities like Seattle have recognized the premium quality and benefits of biodiesel. Philip Saunders, Deputy Division Director of Logistics and Emergency Management for the City of Seattle, said their fleet of F-150s up to heavy-duty tractor trucks “run beautifully” on biodiesel blends.
“Seattle has used biodiesel since the early 2000s,” Saunders said. “We will not go backwards, only forward. We have to get serious on climate change — and this will create jobs and support local farmers at the same time.”
As we continue to hear at the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo, the need for immediate emissions reduction is not going anywhere. And it’s becoming clearer each day that biodiesel is an excellent way to meet the demand.
If you’d like to learn more about how cleaner fuels can give your business an edge, I’d be happy to discuss it with you: [email protected].