Biodiesel Alliance Requests Your Input on the Future of Biofuel Sustainability

The Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance (SBA) is a non-profit organization created to promote cradle-to-grave biodiesel practices for verifying that all points in the production and distribution chain are sustainable.

And now they want your input on what those sustainable practices and standards should be — they’ve released the first draft of their “Principles and Baseline Practices for Sustainability” (PDF) to the public under a 45-day comment and review period.

So, if you’ve ever questioned the wisdom of growing our own fuel, or you’ve wondered how biofuels can be considered sustainable at all given other seemingly cleaner options like solar, wind and geothermal, now’s your time to speak up.

The opening paragraph of the report succinctly sums up what their vision of sustainable biodiesel production is:

“Sustainable biodiesel is biodiesel that is produced in a manner that, on a lifecycle basis, minimizes the generation of pollution, including greenhouse gases; reduces competition for, and use of, natural resources and energy; reduces waste generation; preserves habitat and ecosystems; maintains or improves soils; avoids use of genetically modified organisms; and provides community economic benefit that results in jobs and fair labor conditions.”

Much of the document reads like a list of practices and standards that farmers and industry should be adopting regardless of what they grow or produce — whether it’s for biodiesel or not — but there are many included items that are specific to the biodiesel industry. Some examples:

  • Use waste oils and rendered oils as a biodiesel feedstock before using crops
  • Make sure that the energy put in to making biodiesel is less than the energy produced
  • Use local feedstocks whenever possible

The document is a good start, but it could use some help.

For instance, I believe the use of marginal, non-food-bearing lands for biodiesel feedstock production should be strongly emphasized and encouraged before the use of food-bearing lands — this should be a basic tenet of sustainable biofuel production in general.

There’s a statement that biodiesel feedstock producers should use “marginal lands or existing croplands versus forests, grasslands or pristine ecosystems,” but no mention of encouraging the use of marginal lands before existing croplands.

Additionally there is some language about developing second generation biodiesel feedstocks that won’t compete with food and that biodiesel production should not compete with food security, but those assertions are weakly presented.

So, download the document (PDF), get your thinking cap on, actually read the damn thing, head on over to the SBA’s website, register for their forum to discuss the document, and get crackin’!

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Source: Biofuels Digest

Image Credit: Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.