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OTA goes on offensive against biodiesel; quotes new study

Posted: October 30, 2014

TORONTO, (Aug. 9, 2005) — The Ontario Trucking Association has stepped up its battle against biodiesel.

In a letter to new Ontario Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky calling on her to reconsider the government’s plans to require the use of biodiesel, OTA President David Bradley cited a recent study by Dr. David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University as “evidence that the environmental benefits of mandating the use of biodiesel are overstated.”

Bodiesel is a non-toxic renewable vegetable oil-based fuel that can increase diesel engine life while dramatically reducing emissions. It can be burned in any standard, unmodified diesel engine in pure form (B100) or in a blend with petroleum diesel. This pump will offer a blend called B20 — 20 per cent biodiesel and 80 per cent petroleum diesel — the most common form for commercial use in vehicles.

Ontario is considering mandating biodiesel for the trucking industry. Details aren’t widely available, but the government is likely toying with a low blend of B2 or B5 as the standard. The OTA is opposed to any such plan implemented on the backs of truckers. The group says that biodiesel’s benefits, if there are any, would be mitigated by clean EPA-mandated engines in 2007. Furthermore, the plan would create an island out of Ontario from a supply standpoint, which would eventually increase the cost to truckers.

In a study published this March in Natural Resources Research Dr. Pimentel and his colleague, Dr. Tad W. Patzek, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Berkeley, concluded that turning plants into fuel uses more fossil fuel energy than the resulting ethanol or biodiesel generates. The researchers considered such factors as the energy used in producing the crop, including production of pesticides and fertilizer, running farm machinery and irrigating, grinding and transporting the crop, and in fermenting/distilling the ethanol from the water mix.

They found that biodiesel production using soybean required 27 percent more fossil energy than the biodiesel fuel produced and that biodiesel production using sunflower required 118 percent more fossil energy than the biodiesel fuel produced, the OTA says.

According to Dr. Pimentel, “There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel. These [ethanol and biodiesel] strategies are not sustainable.” He went on to say, “Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation’s energy security, its agriculture, economy or the environment.”

In his letter to Minister Dombrowsky, Bradley said, “Dr. Pimentel’s study is just the most recent in a significant body of credible studies regarding the use of biodiesel to conclude that there is no net environmental benefit from mandating biodiesel.”

Bradley concluded by saying, “Given that there is no scientific basis supporting the environmental benefit of using biodiesel given the introduction of clean diesel and smog free engines beginning next year, we cannot accept the imposition of the potential cost burden for the trucking industry and the Ontario economy from mandating biodiesel.”

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