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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

Bipartisan legislation introduced in US House would be a boon for marine biofuel, if passed

National and state biofuel, soybean and rendering trade groups welcomed the introduction Dec. 7 of the Renewable Fuel for Ocean-Going Vessels Act, bipartisan legislation that, if passed, would allow renewable marine biofuels used in ocean-going vessels such as biodiesel and renewable diesel to be eligible for counting toward existing federal Renewable Fuel Standard requirements.

The legislation would accomplish this by designating these marine biofuels as “additional renewable fuel” similar to jet or home-heating fuels under RFS.

This would allow companies to preserve renewable identification number (RIN) credits in the program.

RFS excludes “fuel used in ocean-going vessels” from the definition of transportation fuels and from refiners’ and blenders’ obligations.

Refiners and blenders are currently required to retire RINs from any biodiesel and renewable diesel used in vessels with Class 3 engines operating in international waters, including the Great Lakes.

In the first 10 months of this year alone, more than 5 million D4 RINs were retired under this rule.

As the federal agency that administers RFS, U.S. EPA allows companies to generate and use RINs for “additional renewable fuel,” which includes heating oil and jet fuel.

If passed, the legislation introduced Dec. 7 would expand the RFS definition of “additional renewable fuel” and allow companies to use or sell the RINs associated with biodiesel and renewable diesel used in ocean-going vessels.

“International shipping companies and cruise lines are increasingly seeking low-carbon biodiesel and renewable diesel to meet climate goals and consumer demand,” said Kurt Kovarik, vice president of federal affairs for Clean Fuels Alliance America. “This commonsense legislation will remove a regulatory roadblock and enable biodiesel and renewable diesel producers to meet the low-carbon fuel needs of shipping companies at a competitive price. It will allow refiners and blenders to keep RINs for fuel used in ocean-going vessels that are currently being sacrificed.”

Kent Swisher, president and CEO of the North American Renderers Association, said the legislation sponsored by Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, and cosponsored by Rep. John Garamendi, D-California, is important for incentivizing the use of biofuel in ocean-going vessels.

“I bet cruise-line travelers would be thrilled to learn that they are contributing to the circular economy because the cooking oil used to fry their french fries is getting a second life as renewable fuel that powers their ship,” Swisher said.

Daryl Cates, president of the American Soybean Association, applauded the bipartisan effort to expand the biobased diesel portfolio in RFS and acknowledge marine applications as a “new and exciting market opportunity for agriculture,” he said.

Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, said the bill provides an important, commonsense fix to RFS.

“The commitments to decarbonizing the transportation sector are the strongest we’ve ever seen, and that includes the marine industry,” Kimberley said. “We all have an interest in encouraging ocean-going vessels to reduce the marine industry’s greenhouse-gas (GHG) impact through the use of biodiesel.”

By some estimates, sustainable marine fuel is set to exceed $325 billion by 2036, noted Suzanne Shirbroun, president of the Iowa Soybean Association.

“And it’s in everyone’s interest that soybean farmers and biodiesel producers capture some of that value,” she said. “When farmers participate in the energy market through greater demand for soybean oil, the farm economy becomes diversified and stronger.”

Shirbroun added that greater use of biodiesel in marine vessels will not only reduce GHG emissions, but it would also improve air quality around ports while strengthening the farm economy.

IBB pointed out that international ships use 2.3 billion gallons of U.S. distillate fuel each year, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and that U.S. DOE already recognizes biodiesel and renewable diesel as sustainable drop-in marine fuels that can achieve immediate carbon reductions in the sector.

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