Pennsylvania plan would boost biofuels

By | March 15, 2007
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell unveiled his Energy Independence Strategy in February. The plan would create special funds totaling $850 million for renewable energy sources and conservation. The plan, which needs to be approved by the state legislature, includes mandates for biofuels.

The goal of the plan is to reduce consumers' energy bills by $10 billion over the next 10 years, said Eric Thumma, director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Energy, Innovations and Technology Development. Another goal is to reduce Pennsylvania's dependence on foreign oil by increasing the state's production of biodiesel and ethanol. Currently, there are four operational biodiesel plants in the state and no ethanol production.

The plan would also increase the use of biodiesel and ethanol to 1 billion gallons per year by 2017, about 12.5 percent of the state's current fuel use. The plan mandates increasing the use of biofuels as production in the state increases.

"There are two separate tracks for ethanol and biodiesel," Thumma said. "We would start out with a B2 requirement one year after we hit 30 million gallons of in-state production. Then, we go up to B5 when we hit 75 million gallons of production, B10 at 150 million gallons of production, and finally B20 is the maximum after we get to 300 million gallons of in-state production."

The plan would require an E10 ethanol blend for gasoline statewide when in-state production reaches 200 million gallons and a determination by the Pennsylvania departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection indicates there is sufficient distribution infrastructure to supply the whole state with ethanol. Currently, only the five counties surrounding Philadelphia have an E10 requirement.

A biofuels stakeholders group, along with other Pennsylvania energy companies, helped the state to craft the proposal. "We worked hard to get everything worked out, from logistics of getting fuel to the pump to clean air issues to feedstock issues," said Keystone Biofuels CEO Race Miner. "It took a lot longer than everyone anticipated. But what I think what you'll see, and the opinion that I have been getting, is Pennsylvania is doing it right."
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