Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hawaii biodiesel refinery is first U.S. biofuels plant to be certified as sustainable by industry group

A Hawaii plant that turns 13,000 gallons a day of waste cooking oils, animal fats, fruit and seeds into diesel fuel has been certified the nation's first sustainable biodiesel plant by the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, a non-profit industry group, Diane Cardwell reports for The New York Times. "The certification is intended to help clean fuel producers distinguish themselves to customers seeking green products—a kind of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for the environmentally conscious." (NYT photo by Kent Nishimura: Refinery in Kea’au)

"For biofuels, the environmental benefits of which have fallen under increasing scrutiny in recent years, that differentiation is ever more important, executives and advocates say," Cardwell writes. Jeff Plowman, chairman of the alliance’s certification committee, told her, “There are lots of different ways of making biodiesel—lots of different feedstocks—and some have been more sustainable than others. Much like the organic labeling or non-G.M.O. labeling, it gives consumers some information to make a choice."

"Climate change specialists say there may simply not be enough agricultural waste to produce significant quantities of biofuel without causing other environmental problems, and it is important to account for what would have happened to the waste material had it not been funneled into fuel," Cardwell writes. John M. DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute, told her, “You can’t just automatically make assumptions that, say, waste-based fuel is O.K. If you have a waste that was otherwise not going to decay, then that carbon is already being kept out of the air with respect to the atmosphere, and at that point you’re as ahead of the game as you’re ever going to be.” (Read more)

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