Discrepancy in the Numbers

A huge difference exists in two U.S. agencies' 2011 biodiesel production stats
By Ron Kotrba | May 01, 2012

The U.S. Energy Information Administration released its latest monthly statistics on biodiesel, and when compared to the U.S. EPA’s Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) data, the numbers just don’t add up. The new report, issued during the final week of March, includes data through the end of last year.

According to the EIA report, U.S. producers manufactured 861 million gallons of biodiesel last year, a significant increase over the 309 million gallons produced in 2010 and the 506 million gallons produced in 2009. Regarding monthly production, the U.S. biodiesel industry produced 103 million gallons of biodiesel in December, a slight increase over the 97 million gallons produced in November, and a significant increase over the 17 million gallons produced in December 2010.

The EIA’s production figures for last year come in well below the EMTS numbers, which state that nearly 1.1 billion gallons of biodiesel was produced.

The discrepancy of roughly 200 million gallons in annual totals could in part be the result of different data sources and collection methods. From January through July, EIA obtained its biodiesel production data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s M311K, which is based on fats and oils production and use. Beginning in August, its figures were forecasts and estimates.

At the end of EIA’s March Monthly Energy Review, it states, “Beginning with August 2011, biodiesel production data are not available from the Bureau of the Census; in their place, forecast data from EIA’s Short-Term Integrated Forecasting System will be used until survey data from EIA’s Monthly Biodiesel Production Report are available.”

Regarding data collection, Census Bureau data used by EIA from January through July were gathered from biodiesel producer survey responses. It is possible some of those surveys were never filled out or sent back to the agency, while other producers may have never received the survey forms to begin with. One source told Biodiesel Magazine that he knew of at least one 30 MMgy facility that was not on the Census Bureau’s survey distribution list, and if there’s one, there’s likely more. EMTS data were gathered from producers generating renewable identification number (RIN) credits, and timely reporting to EMTS is required under RFS2, not to mention that in order for producers to monetize their RINs, they must be entered into the system.

In addition, there is speculation that bad RINs, whether fraudulently generated or improperly separated, could also be contributing to the discrepancy in the numbers.

—Ron Kotrba

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