Written by The Business Journal Staff
Supporters of “green” energy sources like biodiesel are turning up the heat on California state lawmakers in an effort to secure additional financial incentives to produce more of the cleaner-burning fuel right here in the Golden State.
Governor Jerry Brown has earmarked nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in his most recent budget for boosting biofuel production in California and one biofuel company president wants to ensure that money gets to in-state producers.
Russ Teall, founder and president of Ventura-based Biodico Sustainable Biorefineries, sent a letter last week to state lawmakers asking them to support the governor’s Biofuel Initiative, which allocates $210 million in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to “incentivize” in-state production of low carbon biofuels.
Teall has received lobbying support from the California Biodiesel Alliance, a nonprofit industry trade organization formed in 2006 to promote the growing market for biodiesel in California.
Biodiesel, a substitute for petroleum-based diesel fuel, is typically derived from plant and vegetable sources and is much cleaner burning than fossil diesel.
Noting that 80 percent of the biofuel currently consumed in California is imported, Teall argues that the reliance on out-of-state energy sources “takes jobs away from the local economy.”
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and newly elected Valley Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula agree. Both appeared this week in Sacramento before the Assembly’s Budget Subcommittee, testifying that increased investment of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund dollars in the Fresno area would help make a significant dent in the area’s notoriously poor air quality — and boost the economy by creating more jobs.
Over the next few weeks, legislators in Sacramento plan to finalize the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund allocations and in his letter, Teall pleaded with lawmakers to think local.
“California is leading the way in greenhouse gas reduction goals, but the state is still far behind when it comes to creating jobs by incentivizing in-state biofuel production,” Teall wrote.
“California producers provide less than 20 percent of the state’s low carbon fuels, with a majority coming from other states and nations that subsidize their biofuel producers to export their biofuel to California,” Teall added. “The playing field needs to be leveled so that Californians can enjoy the economic benefits of the demand for biofuel that AB 32 and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard have generated.”
AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, requires California to sharply reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and was the first law of its kind to be passed in the U.S.
In his letter, Teall told lawmakers, “California’s economy needs good sustainable job growth. Our company is a prime example of how government, business, academia and the military can come together to create jobs in one of the most impoverished regions of the state. Our facility, in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, is fully energy self-sufficient, utilizes advanced technology that curbs air pollution, reduces electricity use, generates jobs for the local economy and makes our fuel supply more secure.”
Biodico, which was profiled in the December 15, 2015 edition of The Business Journal, recently opened the world’s first self-sufficient, self-generating biofuels facility in Fresno County.
Located outside Five Points, the $6.8 million Biodico Westside facility was funded in part by a $2.8 million grant from the California Energy Commission. Additional contributions came from the U.S. Navy, UC Davis, Fresno State, West Hills Community College as well as the company’s private investors.
Teall said Biodico Westside has the capacity to produce up to 20 million gallons of biodiesel a year and when fully operational, will create more than 45 new jobs while at the same time lowering the price of fuel and increasing the local tax base.
During a speech at the 2016 California Biodiesel Conference, held Feb. 24 in Sacramento, Jennifer Case, chair of the California Biodiesel Alliance (CBA), echoed Teall’s call for greater investment in biofuels across the Golden State.
“We are enjoying the environmental benefits of the low carbon fuel standard, but the vast majority of the economic benefit is being enjoyed by South America, Asia and other parts of the United States,” said Case, who is president of New Leaf Biofuel, a small biodiesel producer in San Diego.
Using a David vs. Goliath analogy to describe the current battle between fossil fuel and “green” energy producers, Case predicted that renewable energy sources like biofuels will ultimately prevail because “renewable is where the innovation, jobs, opportunity and passion are.”
Case also praised recent biodiesel industry policy successes in California that she said have lead to increased “regulatory stability.”
Teall echoed those sentiments in his recent letter to Sacramento legislators. “With support like yours for in-state biofuel production and a proper allocation of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds, California will serve as an outstanding example for generating new jobs in places that need it the most, while also improving the environment and providing energy security. There is a green wave about to wash over California and it can be harnessed to create a vibrant new economy in disadvantaged communities in your district. California is leaving a lot of money on the table by exporting the economic benefits of biofuel production to other states and countries.”
George Lurie | Reporter can be reached at:
490-3464 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org