Bill Delahunt, State Leaders Join Forces On Biofuel Initiative; Puts Mass. In Forefront

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Nov 8, 2007 - 8:46:54 AM
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     Congressman William D. Delahunt has partnered with state leaders on a groundbreaking initiative to promote the development and use of biofuel in Massachusetts.
     Mr. Delahunt, along with Governor Deval L. Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, held a joint press conference at the State House Monday to formally launch what the congressman referred to as a nation-leading initiative.
     “New England is addicted to foreign oil. In Massachusetts alone, we spend more than $10 billion a year on petroleum,” Mr. Delahunt said, referencing a report prepared for him by the Northeast Biofuels Collaborative entitled, “A Proposed Strategy To Promote Biofuels Production and Use in Massachusetts.”
     “Developing cleaner fuels is not only important for our economy and our environment, it is critical for our national security,” he added.
     According to the collaborative report, Massachusetts is the third largest heating oil market in the United States, and residential and commercial customers pay the third highest energy prices in the nation, spending more on petroleum-based fuels than on natural gas and electricity combined.
     The report indicates that Massachusetts spent more than $9.2 billion on petroleum-based fuels in 2004. Of that, $5.2 billion was spent on gasoline, which amounted to 47 percent of all gasoline sales in the New England region that year; $1.3 billion was spent on residential heating oil; $927 was spent on diesel fuel for transportation; $341 million was spent on commercial and industrial heating oil; and $22 million was spent on electricity production.
     By comparison, the state spent a little over $6 billion on electricity and $3.9 billion on natural gas. Biomass consumption that year totaled $68.4 million.
     The state does not produce or refine oil and has limited stocks, the report said, and therefore is more susceptible to supply decreases and price hikes. Massachusetts has a total storage capacity of 650 million gallons of petroleum, or about 54 days’ worth of petroleum (assuming a consumption rate of 12 million gallons a day for gas, diesel, and home heating fuel).
     The report noted that 54 day estimate is likely generous as many of the state’s storage facilities hold petroleum for out-of-state markets.
     One of the state’s bulk fuel storage areas is Sandwich, which has a capacity of 27.1 million gallons. The largest storage area is the city of Revere, which has a total capacity of 187.1 million gallons.
     The report identified four key elements of the biofuel initiative: promoting the use “flex fuel” vehicles—automobiles than can run on standard petroleum as well as a biofuel—and alternative vehicles; expanding the state’s supply of alternative fuels; ending restrictions on market access imposed by major oil companies; and providing state incentives to increase renewable fuel production in Massachusetts.
     Mr. Patrick, Ms. Murray, and Mr. DiMasi are now working on a bill that would establish production and usage standards for biofuel, the general term for a liquid or solid fuel derived from an organic source such as wood, sugar cane, or corn.
     First, the bill would require all diesel and home heating fuel to contain a minimum two percent biofuel blend as of 2010, with that amount increasing to five percent by 2013. In addition to reducing the state’s overall consumption of diesel and conventional heating oil, this provision would encourage growth in the biofuel refinery and distribution sectors.
     There are currently three biofuel refineries in the planning stages, in Greenfield, Pittsfield, and Quincy.
     The legislation would also provide an exemption from the state gas tax on ethanol, a gasoline additive derived from sources such as corn, switchgrass, and agricultural waste, which again would provide an incentive for expanded biofuel-based businesses in Massachusetts.
     “It is exciting that we are able to produce advanced biofuels with what we have right here in Massachusetts,” Ms. Murray said. “With advanced biofuels coming from an array of new feedstocks, including agricultural waste, sustainable energy crops, algae, and even cranberry bog biomass, many companies in the Commonwealth are already developing these fuels.”
     According to Mr. Patrick the tax exemption, through its entailing economic development benefits, is expected to create 3,000 new jobs and generate $320 million in new revenue.
     “We need to add clean fuels to the mix today, but we also have to look ahead to the renewable fuel that will do the most good for the Commonwealth’s environment, energy efficiency and economy,” Mr. Patrick said in a press release. “The state gas tax exemption for cellulosic ethanol is a big step in the right direction.”
     In addition, the bill calls for the creation of a state task force to explore ways to promote biofuel for its environmental and economic benefits.
     The report cited one local company, Loud Fuel in Falmouth, for taking the initiative in investing in biofuel for the home heating oil market. Loud Fuel began offering a biodiesel fuel mix using soy methyl ester, derived from soybeans, in 2004, and all of the company’s heating oil now contains at least five percent soy methyl ester.
     The full report may be viewed on-line at www.house.gov/delahunt/mabiofuelsreportma.pdf