ASA explores EU biodiesel industry during trade mission

By | October 01, 2005
Biodiesel wasn't the sole focus of the American Soybean Association's (ASA) summer trade mission to Europe, but it was certainly a bright spot in a series of meetings largely mired in differences of opinion over biotechnology.

During the ASA's week-long mission in early June, ASA grower leaders and staff, Congressional staff, industry representatives and U.S. Foreign Agriculture Service staff, immersed themselves in trade-related issues impacting the importation and use of U.S. soybeans and soybean-derived products in Europe. In addition to lively exchanges of information over biotechnology, the U.S. delegation took time to explore the inner workings of the European biodiesel industry-and the policy drivers behind it.

In France, the delegation toured Saipol, a large biodiesel plant in Rouen, where delegates spoke with French biodiesel industry leaders. "I was struck by how much we have in common on biodiesel," said ASA President and former National Biodiesel Board President Bob Metz. "Like us, the French are firmly committed to developing and maintaining a strong biodiesel industry. They produced about 104 million gallons of biodiesel in 2004. Wouldn't it be nice to see production in the U.S. ramp up to that figure?"

In fact, French officials recently announced that four new biodiesel plants capable of collectively producing an additional 59 mmgy will be constructed by 2007. European Union (EU) member states produced approximately 576 mmgy in 2004, according to the European Biodiesel Board. Germany is the largest producer of biodiesel in the EU-it produced 308 mmgy in 2004-while France was second and Italy a close third at 95 mmgy.

In Belgium, the U.S. delegates visited with high-ranking officials, delegates of EU member states and biodiesel industry leaders. One particular meeting provided the U.S. delegates with insight into how EU policy has effectively transformed Europe's biodiesel industry. "It's clear that EU policies are driving the biodiesel market," said ASA Chairman Neal Bredehoeft. "Member states give biodiesel a tax break, and the EU aims to use renewables in no less than 5.75 percent of transportation fuel sold by 2010. These directives closely resemble the biodiesel tax incentive [extended in the Energy Policy Act of 2005]. [The mission] illustrated the important role biodiesel can play in promoting biodiesel."
 
 
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