Biodiesel regulation sought by Iowa trucking industry

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The Iowa Motor Truck Association sees better state regulation of biodiesel quality and incentives for retailers as key to tapping the renewable fuel’s opportunities for the state. Few, if any, of the state’s major truck lines currently use biodiesel because of concerns about fuel labeling and consistent quality, according to Scott Weiser, IMTA president.

Weiser told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that Minnesota provided the wrong example of how to regulate biodiesel when it passed a mandate in 2002 requiring all diesel fuel sold in that state to contain at least 2 percent biodiesel in 2005. The mandate kicked in during the fall of last year, but was suspended after truckers reported an outbreak of clogged fuel filters. Weiser told the Gazette that biodiesel with too much glycerine can clog fuel filters, but biodiesel manufactured to appropriate standards should not cause any problems for the state’s big fleet operators at concentrations up to 5 percent soy diesel to petrodiesel. “We want to use it,” Weiser said.

The trucking group is backing language in a renewable fuels bill in the Iowa General Assembly that would enact a nationally recognized standard for biodiesel. Biodiesel would be tested at the plant, and “serious penalties” would apply for violators who sold substandard biodiesel in the state. Another portion of the bill would give retailers a three-cent-per-gallon “pumping credit” for selling biodiesel. “My guys wanted purity and price,” Weiser told the Gazette.

Another reason trucking companies are interested in ethanol is the new federal diesel standards that take effect in 2007, which are designed to reduce sulfur emissions. The reformulated diesel required to meet the standards will reduce diesel’s lubricating qualities, increasing engine wear. “Biodiesel has at least the promise to restore the lubricity,” Weiser told the Gazette. “We may or may not gain fuel mileage because of it.” The renewable fuels bill is also a vehicle for legislation to boost sales of ethanol. Weiser told the Gazette he feels hopeful the biodiesel measures will pass.

The association hosted several sessions for members at the Cedar Rapids Marriott on Thursday, April 6, including a training session for drivers participating in the Highway Watch program designed to improve homeland security. About 10,000 Iowa drivers are trained in the program.