Biodiesel’s Cinderella Story


Originally Published in The Jacobsen on April 24, 2017
California Biodiesel Industry Commentary

The California biodiesel industry is certainly not completely out of the woods yet, but a final ruling in the Poet v CARB case came down on Monday April 10 and it was more favorable to biodiesel than expected.

Biodiesel will continue to be part of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program. CARB will be required to go back and comply with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA – pronounced SEE-kwa) regulation as pertains to proper baseline analytics of environmental impacts of NOx from increased biodiesel use. And if that requirement is not met by the end of this year then LCFS carbon reduction targets for the alternative diesel fuel category will be frozen at 2017 levels until it is – but there is good reason to believe that CARB will be able to meet that compliance requirement in a timely manner.

To be clear, since LCFS credits are generic and since biodiesel is not being severed from the program, biodiesel can and probably will continue to be used for compliance in all categories, not just diesel. This is because biodiesel still provides the best bang for the buck when it comes to large volumes of low carbon alternative transportation fuels to comply with overall program goals. It’s as simple as that.

As I pointed out in my last article, ¡Viva La Cucaracha!, there have been numerous boogiemen over the years that have challenged the biodiesel industry, but this most recent one was probably the most challenging that I had seen in my 16 year tenure in the industry. I also predicted that we would not only survive this boogieman challenge, but thrive and perhaps see an effective B20 mandate in California before too long.

I perhaps mistakenly compared our small industry to cockroaches that could not be easily killed or dissuaded. I’d like to amend that comparison now.

I believe biodiesel is more accurately defined as the Cinderella of the renewable fuels industry. Not to belabor the metaphor, but biodiesel has been overlooked and taken for granted. It’s been underestimated, presumed ineffective and even left for dead.

This latest legal challenge had the entire fuels industry including our own participants presuming the worst, even as biodiesel had supplied 20% of all the credits generated in the LCFS program. Like Cinderella, we have been scrubbing floors for years. Mistreated by our stepsisters and evil stepmother (whose names I’ll leave out of this article).

But we made an appearance at the LCFS ball and it turns out we were the most beautiful participant there. This caught the eye of several handsome princes who liked our size 20(%) glass slipper, and will soon come courting.

Biodiesel’s day is at hand and our industry is poised for incredible growth. Not to mix fairy tale metaphors, but we’ve been scrubbing floors, slaying dragons and dispensing with boogiemen for long enough. Cinderella is about to take some market share and really doesn’t need a prince to make that happen, thank you very much. It’s the 21st century, after all.