Bill would require biodiesel in all diesel fuel sold

A Macon legislator introduced a bill in the state House today that would require all diesel fuel sold in Georgia to contain at least 2 percent biodiesel.

Rep. Alan Freeman, R-Macon, said House Bill 1174 would help farmers and agribusinesses in Georgia’s small but growing biofuel industry. With co-sponsors that include the Democratic minority leader and the governor’s floor leader, Freeman said he hopes the measure can win passage.

“I think the bill has merit, but the opposition is going to come from the word ‘mandate,’ ” Freeman said. “

Indeed, the head of the Georgia Oilmen’s Association, whose members would be required to sell the blended fuel, said he is strongly opposed.

The state’s biofuel industry and fuel distributors are not yet ready to meet the mandate to include biological fuel such as soybean oil or chicken-fat derivatives in all diesel fuel, said Roger Lane, president of association. And even if they were, he would oppose it, Lane said.

“I think it’s a bad bill and anti-business,” Lane said. “If there’s a need for that product to exist, it will. I have no intention of supporting legislation that mandates a product.”

Freeman said that there is already more than enough supply of soybean oil, rendered chicken fat and other biofuels to meet the demand, which he estimated at around 40 million gallons a year for the state. “Some of our plants already produce 40 million gallons,” he said.

“I see it as economic development,” he said. “It’s a small step toward less dependence on foreign oil, it puts farmers back to work and supports a fledgling industry.”

Ordinary diesel fuel is a heavier component of crude oil than gasoline. Diesel engines are generally used in large trucks, but are becoming popular for passenger cars because they get better mileage. Fuel distributors have recently been required to sell ultra-low-sulfur diesel, which addressed some concerns about their higher polluting characteristics, compared to gasoline engines.

While some diesel-powered cars and trucks have been converted to burn waste frying oil alone, they have trouble with the oil becoming too thick to pass through the fuel system, a problem not experienced with blended fuel that is mostly from petroleum.

Environmental groups generally support biofuels as a renewable energy source that can help preserve Georgia’s farms and woodland from residential development. Environmental lobbyist Mark Woodall said his only concern is that the bill doesn’t mention where the biodiesel comes from.

“We wouldn’t want it to be from palm oil imported from Sumatra,” Woodall said. “We want to encourage the local stuff. That’s one question that needs to be brought up.”

Freeman said most affected industries, including trucking companies, were on board with the bill. Unlike some other alternative fuels, biodiesel using small amounts of organic oils doesn’t require expensive refitting of diesel trucks. It also requires less energy to produce than ethanol, the other main alternative fuel.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, the House minority leader; Rep. Jim Cole, R-Forsyth, one of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s floor leaders; Rep. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan, chair of the Natural Resources Committee; and Rep. Johnny Floyd, R-Cordele.

A Senate bill to require local schools and governments to purchase biodiesel failed to pass the House in the 2006 session.