According to this article in Mongabay, a study from a British think tank is calling for an end to subsidies for biofuels based on — not biodiversity loss and high food prices — cost effectiveness.

The economics is startling — if developed countries spent the same amount of money on preventing deforestation and the destruction of peatlands as they do on biofuel subsidies (US $15 billion), this would halve the total costs of tackling climate change. In addition to this, the protection of these habitats yields a plethora of valuable eco-system services, particularly in the poorest countries.”

Normally, a third strike means you’re out. Imagine a game of baseball where one of the teams can have all the strikes they want. That’s the system we have established for corn ethanol. Consumers can’t vote with their dollars fast enough, but it seems to make no difference. It’s supported by tax dollars and blended into fuel by government fiat, and there isn’t anything to do about it.

That isn’t quite the case with biodiesel. Seattle has biodiesel pumps all over the place. You can buy a 99 percent blend, a 20 percent blend, or a 5 percent blend. Consumers don’t have to buy it and guess what? They don’t. King County, the largest consumer in Washington state has stopped using biodiesel. I recently attended a two-hour long protest in front of a biodiesel filling station (creatively landscaped with soy and canola seedlings) at which one customer showed up the entire time. It was a ghost town, sans tumbleweeds.

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Another business not far from where I live has a dozen or so delivery vans that had large biodiesel stickers on the doors to capitalize on the positive public image biodiesel had at one time. Those stickers have been removed from all of the vans except one. Interestingly enough, that one van is usually parked at the end of the line in the evenings facing out toward the public. My guess is that the business owner still thinks biodiesel is good for business but, to cut expenses, has stopped using it in all but one van. Hopefully, enough customers will eventually express dismay over the use of cropland usurping biodiesel and the final sticker will be removed.

Remember Imperium Renewables, the largest biodiesel refinery in the country that came on-line just one year ago? Seattle invested millions of dollars of employees’ retirement funds in this company, which bought a total of 1 percent of their vegetable oil from local farmers and the rest from the lowest bidder regardless of source or nationality. According to this article in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, they just cut their headquarters staff from 107 to six, and according to the Daily World, port records show that Imperium hasn’t exported anything since April of 2008.

Even with a massive dollar-per-gallon blending subsidy and with the price of its competition (oil) at record highs, Imperium Renewables can’t sell enough biodiesel to stay afloat. And they are not alone. Many other biodiesel refineries around the country are running at half-capacity or have stopped production altogether.

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