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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

Senators ask USDA to update soy biodiesel lifecycle assessment

Two members of the Senate ag committee, Sens. John Thune, R-South Dakota, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, spearheaded a letter sent on National Biodiesel Day (March 18) to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking him to instruct USDA to complete a full, updated lifecycle assessment of soybean oil-based biodiesel—including direct and significant indirect emissions—within the next nine months.

“As the USDA works to ensure the inclusion of agriculture-based biofuels as part of the effort to decarbonize our fuel supply, it’s critical that lifecycle carbon assessments of biofuels be based on current and sound science,” the letter states. “Fuels like biodiesel offer a sustainable, readily available source of emissions reductions, but full acknowledgement of such contributions requires accurate data and modeling. We were encouraged by your response to a question for the record in your confirmation hearing, in which you committed to ‘request a review of the current literature and an evaluation of the benefit of a new study focused on biomass-based diesel.’ We write in support of such a review and request that you instruct USDA complete a full lifecycle assessment of soybean oil-based biodiesel, including direct and significant indirect emissions, before the end of the year.”

The letter notes how USDA updated its corn-ethanol assessment yet a similar analysis for biodiesel has not been conducted, “denying a timely opportunity for a federally directed study to further inform the ongoing discussion about biofuels and lifecycle emission reductions,” the senators wrote. We believe an updated assessment will show significant reductions in the overall lifecycle emissions of biodiesel … Our request comes at a critically important time as states, regions, and municipalities are designing new or expanding existing greenhouse gas reduction targets.” The letter also says that since EPA benchmarks new RFS pathways against biodiesel made from soybean oil, this could help facilitate new pathways for biodiesel from cover crops, such as pennycress.

Joining Thune and Klobuchar in cosigning the letter were Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska; Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Tina Smith, D-Minnesota; Josh Hawley, R-Mississippi; and Roger Marshall, R-Kansas.

To read the full letter, click here.

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