OSA speaks out against auditor's suggestion to use less biodiesel

By Erin Voegele | May 25, 2012

An audit completed by state officials in Ohio has found that taxpayers within the state spent an extra $3.3 million over the past four years to pay for the Ohio Department of Transportation’s mandated use of biofuel in its vehicles. The performance audit interim report was released by Auditor of the State Dave Yost on May 21.

Ohio state law mandates that state agencies use a B20 blend of biodiesel, and information released by the auditor’s office noted that the ODOT uses significantly more biodiesel than required. In fact, by November 2011 the ODOT reportedly used 189.2 percent of its yearly mandated biodiesel amount, equating to nearly 1.27 million gallons. During 2011 the audit states that the ODOT and other state offices paid 36 center more per gallon for biodiesel than then would have for standard diesel. As a result, Yost has recommended that ODOT discontinue its practice of using more biodiesel than required by state law. The report also recommends the statute be permissive to allow management to decide when it is cost effective to use biodiesel blends. In other words, the recommendation would make the use of biodiesel-blended fuels a discretionary matter. The audit report said the suggested changes could result in more than $800,000 a year in savings.

The audit also concludes that the economics and relative cost of biodiesel do not support a conclusion that the state’s mandate has been effective in developing a sustainable, competitive alternative fuels market around the ODOT as a key consumer. “Any goal of promoting the development of a market that could change the economics of biodiesel has not been realized,” stated the report.

The Ohio Soybean Association has spoken out, expressing concern over the audit report findings. According to the OSA, the economic, energy security and environmental benefits of using biodiesel-blended fuel are worth the slight premium per gallon cost. “Biodiesel is a sustainable, more environmentally friendly fuel made from renewable resources grown right here in Ohio,” said Bret Davis, OSA president and Delaware County soybean farmer.  “It reduces our dependence on foreign oil, while also adding jobs and significant economic impact. By using a product grown and produced in our state, we are keeping our taxpayer dollars here and in our rural communities.”

The OSA also noted that U.S. DOE analysis has revealed that without domestic biodiesel production, petroleum prices would increase 20 to 35 cents per gallon. “We appreciate the intentions of the recommendations, but believe that the overall economic impact and environmental benefits of biodiesel were not fully represented in the conclusions,” said Adam Ward, OSA executive director. “Biodiesel is a vital part of developing of a green economy and green jobs for Ohioans.”

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