Improved air quality and reduced dependence on foreign oil are two key benefits that hinge on a decision by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) regarding changes to the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT) as proposed by the American Soybean Association (ASA) and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB). ASA and NBB are urging DOE to amend the regulations for alternative fuels and alternative fueled vehicles (AFVs) to include B20, a blend of 20 percent biodiesel/80 percent petroleum diesel, as an approved EPACT alternative fuel. Biodiesel is made from oilseed crops, such as soybeans, a renewable and stable agricultural product. ASA First Vice President Mike Yost, a soybean producer from Murdock, Minnesota, said, “It’s time for DOE to make a decision. They have been provided with all the scientific, legal and technical information they requested, and now its purely a matter of policy and politics.”Yost, who chairs the Association’s Public Affairs Committee, said, “B20 has great potential to help reduce vehicle emissions and our dependence on foreign oil. B20 gives fleet managers more choices and more opportunities to comply with EPACT goals.” Under EPACT, by the year 2001, 75 percent of all affected Federal and state government vehicle purchases, and 90 percent of all affected vehicle purchases by private alternative fuel suppliers must be ATVs. These requirements begin in 1997 and will affect centrally fueled fleets with 20 or more light-duty vehicles (less than 8,500 pounds) that operate in major urban areas. Since 1991, biodiesel demonstration projects with both public and private transportation authorities in numerous cities have indicated a market preference for B20 over other biodiesel blends.”Soybeans in biodiesel represent a renewable fuel source that is better for the environment. Biodiesel production can be added to existing soybean crushing facilities, adding jobs and other economic benefits from processing locally grown agricultural products,” Yost said. “Millions of gallons of imported petroleum can be displaced with biodiesel each year, adding substantially to this country’s energy security and providing substantial environmental benefits.” B20 reduces both particulate emissions and greenhouse gas emissions.”In addition to newly processed soybean oil, biodiesel processors could use soybean oil recycled from industrial cooking oil users such as restaurants and food manufacturers. This also benefits landfills and waste water treatment systems because there will be a market and a system in place to recycle used cooking oil,” Yost added. Soybeans represent 82 percent of U.S. fats and oils edible consumption.DOE representatives said they would present an answer to the B20 petition as soon as possible following the September 15, 1997, deadline for public comments. The DOE acknowledged the biodiesel industry deserves a clear and forthright answer to the petition.Before B20 can be included as an EPACT alternative fuel, DOE must amend its current regulations through a rulemaking process in order to formally collect information on B20 and render an informed decision. Once all the information on the benefits of B20 is placed in the public record, then the Secretary of Energy can decide to include B20 as an EPACT alternative fuel.”We still have a way to go before this can benefit farmers and the American public, but this is the critical step,” Yost added. “Our proposal will not create any new government spending or tax breaks or subsidies, and it will not require anyone to use B20. The only direct impact is to give affected fleet managers who must comply with existing provisions and regulations of EPACT more choices and greater opportunity to use B20 blended fuels as a way to meet those requirements.”64.2 million acres of soybeans were planted in 1996, accounting for 24% of all U.S. crop acres planted. From this was harvested 2,382 million bushels of soybeans that resulted in a surplus of about 950 million pounds of soybean oil, part of which could have been processed into biodiesel. With average annual soybean oil production exceeding domestic demand by 6 percent, the sale of 30 million gallons of biodiesel would utilize 219 million pounds of surplus soybean oil, or enough B20 fuel to supply about 10 percent of the vehicles subject to EPACT. For the U.S. soybean farmer this would support the price of soybeans by an estimated 11 cents per bushel.