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Sunday, February 12, 2006

News From My Backyard: Renewable Fuel Standard Passes Washington State House

Green Car Congress reports today that the Washington State House of Representatives has just passed a new renewable fuel standard (HB 2738) that mandates a 2% minimum annual sales of biodiesel within that state, and a minimum 2% ethanol content for all gasoline sold in the state.

According to GCC, the legislature opted for the 2% sales standard for biodiesel rather than mandating 2% content in all diesel sold (as they did with ethanol) out of concerns for possible fuel quality issues such as those that occurred in Minnesota following that state’s enactment of a 2% biodiesel content requirement for all diesel.

The article continues:

The bill is designed to boost in-state production of renewable fuels, and the bill ratchets up the minimums once the state has the proven ability to meet lower tier biodiesel and ethanol requirements. For biodiesel, the sales requirement climbs to 5%; for ethanol, the minimum content climbs to 10%.

The bill also calls for the adoption of ASTM, NIST and federal biodiesel fuel quality standards. If a conflict exists between federal environmental protection agency standards, ASTM 14 standards, or NIST standards, the federal environmental protection agency standards take precedence.

The bill provides for the establishment of a fuel testing laboratory (or a contract with a third-party lab) as well as an advisory committee to advise on implementing or suspending the minimum renewable 32 fuel content requirements.

If passed by the Senate, the requirements would take effect 1 December 2008.

I suppose this is good news - a step in the right direction at least. I would have hoped that the bill included some focus on research to develop cellulosic ethanol or Fischer-Tropsch biofuels though. Ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soy have relatively poor energy return on investments compared to cellulosic ethanol and FT-biofuels and I would hope that in the longterm, the use of biofuels in the United States is dominated by fuels from these more efficient processes.

Washington (and Oregon for that matter) should be paying attention to this report released recently from a Maine non-profit that found that half of Maine's energy needs could be met by forest waste biomass alone.

And speaking of states whose major city is Portland, an initiative similar to Washington's biofuels bill is moving through the initiative process here in Oregon as well, heading for the November, 2006 ballot. The new initiative, dubbed the "New Energy for Oregon" campaign, calls for an 8% renewable fuels standard by 2010 (rising over time) and tax breaks for Oregon farmers growing biofuel feedstocks as well as the establishment of seven research centers for alternative fuels and renewable energy across the state. More on the Oregon initiative coming soon...

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