Iowa biodiesel industry calls ‘mayday’ at Capitol Hill rally

By The Iowa Biodiesel Board | May 01, 2019

Iowa Congressional leaders and members of the Iowa Biodiesel Board took part in a Capitol Hill rally May 1 in support of getting the biodiesel and renewable diesel tax credit renewed. The National Biodiesel Board hosted an event with Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island; and Reps. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa; Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois; Darin LaHood, R-Illinois; Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa; and others to discuss the status of the lapsed credit. Grassley and Finkenauer have each introduced legislation that would extend the tax credit for 2018 and 2019.

Among the companies participating was Hero BX, which owns a biodiesel plant in Clinton, Iowa. Also participating was Tom Brooks, general manager of Western Dubuque Biodiesel and chair of the Iowa Biodiesel Board.

“May 1, also known as May Day, is International Workers’ Day, a celebration of blue-collar workers,” Brooks said. “It’s an apropos time to draw attention to a dire situation growing in the biodiesel industry that could threaten thousands of jobs here in Iowa and nationwide.

“Biodiesel companies like mine, Western Dubuque Biodiesel in Farley, Iowa, and plant workers nationwide face an increasingly uncertain future due to the long lapse of the federal biodiesel tax incentive. This energy policy has served as a key driver for leveling the playing field with oil and encouraging American-made renewable energy. But Congress has allowed it to lapse for 16 months.

“The market has always assumed the incentive would come back. Like most biodiesel producers, we’ve had little choice but to sell our fuel at a price that includes the tax incentive already calculated in. The uncertainty of the tax credit is like having to wager our company’s money at the roulette table, betting on black, but in the red. If Congress does not reinstate the incentive for 2018 and 2019, my plant, and dozens like it, stands to lose millions of dollars.

“This would deal an economic blow to the future of this vital manufacturing industry, putting good-paying, ‘green-collar’ jobs and production of a low-carbon, domestic fuel at risk. Since biodiesel is made from surplus fats or vegetable oils like soybean oil, usually a byproduct or coproduct of food production, this economic pressure on us also lurks over farmers, already hit hard by trade disputes and weather.

“With plants in nearly every state, the U.S. biodiesel and renewable diesel industry supports more than 60,000 jobs, paying more than $2.5 billion in annual wages and generating more than $11 billion in economic impact. The biodiesel tax incentive helps producers across the country continue to invest in capacity for future growth. In fact, we’ve explored expanding our 30-million gallon-per-year plant, but that is unquestionably on hold until we see that our government remains committed to renewable fuels.

“This tax incentive isn’t just good for Iowa, it’s good policy for America. It diversifies where our energy comes from and contributes to American jobs, the environment and energy security. Our workers are counting on the biodiesel tax incentive. Reversing course now would deal a devastating blow to all we’ve built. This May Day, I urge Congress to act swiftly to protect jobs and economic opportunities across the U.S.”

Biodiesel is an advanced biofuel made from agricultural byproducts and co-products, such as soybean oil. The Iowa Biodiesel Board is a state trade association representing the biodiesel industry.

 
 
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