Fischer joins colleagues in requesting federal review of soybean oil-based biodiesel

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and several colleagues urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to provide an updated, federally supported lifecycle assessment of soybean oil-based biodiesel that would help ensure the product is given accurate credit when considering carbon reduction strategies.

“As 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,” wrote Sen. Fischer and nine of her colleagues in a bipartisan March 18 letter sent to Vilsack. “Fuels like biodiesel offer a sustainable, readily available source of emissions reductions, but full acknowledgement of such contributions require accurate data and modeling.”

Among the lawmakers who joined Sen. Fischer in signing the letter were U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

“Our request comes at a critically important time as states, regions, and municipalities are designing new or expanding existing greenhouse gas reduction targets,” the senators wrote. “We believe that biofuels have already demonstrated their value as a readily available fuel that is compatible with existing vehicle fleets and fueling infrastructure.”

Sen. Fischer and her colleagues noted that they support Vilsack’s response to a question during his confirmation hearing in which he 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,” according to their letter. 

The senators also pointed out that if USDA provides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with an updated assessment, such action “could help facilitate new pathway approvals for burgeoning areas of agriculture like winter oilseed cover crops,” they wrote. 

In related efforts, Sen. Fischer also recently signed on as a cosponsor of the bipartisan Adopt Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) Act, S. 193, which would require the EPA to update its greenhouse gas modeling for ethanol and biodiesel. Introduced in February, the bill is under consideration in the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.