Two years’ worth of attempts by the soybean checkoff to convince Europeans of the sustainability of biodiesel made from U.S. soybean oil recently culminated in several “frustrating” meetings in Brussels between United Soybean Board (USB) Chairman Marc Curtis and several European Union (EU) officials.
Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED), biodiesel made from U.S. soybean oil fails to meet the directive’s minimum greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-reduction threshold, despite a checkoff-funded study that proves otherwise.
“‘Frustrating’ is probably the right word,” says Curtis. “The EU Commission acknowledged they have the results of our research and they indicate that they more or less agree with our numbers. But it’s more of a political situation than it is a sound-science situation.”
Since December 1, 2010, when member states first began implementing the new biodiesel rules, U.S. soy exports to the EU have already been hindered, Curtis says. Besides displacing some U.S. soybean exports to the EU, he says the RED will also affect U.S. soybean oil exports.
“The EU is approximately 5 percent of our soybean export market,” says Curtis. “Processors use the meal for animal feed, and they had used the oil to manufacture biodiesel. Now, however, the EU will re-export that oil at a discount, to some other country, where it will compete with our own soybean oil exports.”
The RED requires all of the EU’s member states to use 10 percent renewable fuels in their transportation fuel mix by 2020. In order to qualify as renewable, the fuel must reduce GHG emissions by at least 35 percent compared with similar petroleum-based fuel. Currently, the RED gives biodiesel made from U.S. soybean oil credit for just a 31 percent GHG reduction.
Among numerous other efforts, the soybean checkoff provided the Commission with the results of a checkoff-funded life-cycle analysis, which demonstrated that soy biodiesel easily meets the RED’s GHG-reduction requirements. Using the same methodology as the RED, the study shows soy biodiesel reduces GHG emissions by between 39 percent for biodiesel made from U.S. soybeans shipped to and crushed in Europe and 49 percent for finished U.S. soy biodiesel shipped to Europe.
American Soybean Association First Vice President Steve Wellman; North American Export Grain Association CEO Gary Martin; and Anthony Reed, of the National Oilseed Processors Association and ADM, accompanied Curtis on the mission.
USB is made up of 69 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.