Before the State and Local Government Committee
by Sue Jones, NRCM energy project director
Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on behalf of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (Council). I am Sue Jones, and am the Energy Project Director for the Council. I live in Freeport. The Council is a public interest, nonprofit organization that seeks to protect and conserve Maine’s environment for now and future generations. As part of the Council’s work, we advocate for clean air and energy measures, including those that reduce global warming pollution.
LD 197 would require all state-owned facilities that consume heating oil, and all state-owned vehicles that use diesel fuel, to use at least B20 biodiesel fuel.
The Council supports LD 197 because it would significantly reduce air and global warming pollution generated in Maine, help build the biodiesel market and public acceptance in Maine and could reduce overall market prices for all Mainers at some point in the near future, and would help state-owned facilities comply with the requirements of the Maine Energy Savings Pilot Program enacted in 1999 (MRSA 5 section 1770).
1. Passage would significantly reduce air and global warming pollution.
Using B20 compared to conventional diesel would significantly reduce dangerous pollution that the State is obligated to reduce by federal law under the Clean Air Act. For example, it would:
§ Reduce sulfates by 20%:
§ Reduce unburned hydrocarbons by 14%:
§ Reduce carbon monoxide by 9%: and
§ Reduce particulate matter (soot) by 8%.
According to the National Biodiesel Board, biodiesel significantly reduces global warming pollution compared to conventional diesel. A 1998 biodiesel lifecycle study, jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, concluded biodiesel reduces net CO² emissions by 78 percent compared to conventional diesel. This is due to biodiesel’s closed carbon cycle. The CO² released into the atmosphere when biodiesel is burned is recycled by growing plants, which are later processed into fuel.
Biodiesel is less harmful to public health. Biodiesel exhaust has a less harmful impact on human health than conventional diesel fuel. Biodiesel emissions have decreased levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and nitrited PAH compounds that have been identified as potential cancer causing compounds. Test results indicate PAH compounds were reduced by 75 to 85 percent, with the exception of benzo(a)anthracene, which was reduced by roughly 50 percent. One in eleven children in Maine have asthma – also called “an asthma epidemic” by the Maine Chapter of the American Lung Association. Asthma attacks are exacerbated by conventional diesel soot and other pollution.
Diesel particulate is considered a carcinogen by the EPA as well as the State of California. Given high medical costs already, Maine cannot afford additional causes and contributors to these public health threats.
2. Passage would help build the biodiesel market and public acceptance in Maine and could reduce overall market prices for all Mainers at some point in the near future.
The State would not likely incur significant costs in modifying engines or boilers as a result of passing LD 197. Biodiesel functions the same as conventional diesel in engines – essentially, requiring no engine modifications. It maintains the same payload capacity and range of diesel. Manufacturer warranties cover defects in parts, materials and workmanship, and those warranties extend to diesel engines (including those burning biodiesel). While these warranties do not cover engine problems related to fuel of any kind, tests and demonstrations have shown that biodiesel has no different impacts than conventional diesel in terms of engine performance and wear.
Transitioning to biodiesel use in state facilities and boilers could be done seamlessly. Diesel engines are the most energy-efficient internal combustion engines. Diesel power offers a number of advantages over other forms of energy, including safety due to its lower combustibility, better fuel economy, greater power density for higher performance, and unmatched durability for longer engine life. Since these engines are more durable and last longer than other fueled-engines and boilers, switching to cleaner, more efficient fuels such as biodiesel makes sense economically and environmentally than investing in new equipment or add-on controls to reduce air and global warming pollution.
Passage of this bill would help build and market the public’s use of biodiesel throughout the State. According to the fiscal note associated with this bill, the State’s major facilities use over 2.4 million gallons of oil annually. The State’s switching to biodiesel will not only reduce its emissions and show its “leadership by example”, but it can also be used to stabilize – and reduce over time — prices of this fuel to all Maine citizens. The more fuel that is used, the more likely prices will come down over time. This in turn will help to increase the public’s acceptance and usage of biodiesel.
While the projected fiscal costs of this bill are considerable (especially during these fiscally-constrained times), the benefits are great to the environment, public health and the economy. These will continue to grow over time and are supported by a large number of stakeholders. Between November 2003 and December 2004, a group of over 100 stakeholders representing business, environment, public health and other interests were asked to periodically convene and develop Maine’s first Climate Action Plan. This was a comprehensive and exhaustive process that took the full-time efforts of many DEP staffers and interested stakeholders. Literally, hundreds of hours of meetings took place, and much good work was done in recommending a thorough list of policy options to DEP Commissioner Gallagher and her staff. After another few months of review and finalizing, last December Governor Baldacci approved the list of 54 policy options that comprised Maine’s Climate Action Plan. Within the Action Plan is an option regarding biodiesel. While the stakeholders and DEP were not able to fully develop a biodiesel proposal that could be accurately modeled and defined for the Action Plan, the stakeholders felt strongly that biodiesel had a firm place within the Action Plan. The stakeholders acknowledged that there would be costs, but that a policy to further this fuel’s use in Maine was worthwhile and supportable in our efforts to reduce global warming pollution in Maine.
Despite the upfront cost of the fuel, biodiesel use is known to reduce operating and maintenance costs because of its lubricative properties. Likewise, because it contains lower amounts of sulfur than conventional diesel, use of biodiesel reduces boiler and engine damage and inefficiency, as well as costly maintenance repairs and visits. Thus, use of biodiesel could result in reduced operating and maintenance costs for boilers and vehicles.
Regarding the upfront slight additional cost of biodiesel over conventional diesel, users in Maine have found creative ways to help pay for it. At the University of Southern Maine, students now pay a slight annual fee to help pay for biodiesel use in the campus bus system. Similarly, at the University of Maine at Orono, students are required to pay an annual “energy fee” to help the increasing costs of energy on campus (but not currently used to help pay for biodiesel). Both of these fees are very modest and are tied to helping students and faculty connect the importance of rising energy costs with the need to reduce energy consumption and costs. Moreover, the educational messages (associated with these fees) about reducing energy use, help to further the acceptance of this newer fuel. These are two creative ways in which to help fund the use of biodiesel through this bill that could be further discussed and explored in the work session.
3. Passage would help state-owned facilities comply with the requirements of the Maine Energy Savings Pilot Program enacted in 1999 (MRSA 5 section 1770).
Nearly six years ago, the Legislature passed an Energy Savings Pilot Program that requires all facilities owned by the State, specifically including the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System, to significantly reduce energy consumption by setting a goal of 25% energy reduction by 2010 (relative to a baseline of 1998). The Department of Administrative and Financial Services is directed to oversee this program and to annually report back to the Utilities Committee with the status of progress and efforts to achieve the goal.
To varying degrees on different campuses, Maine’s university system has been working to reduce its energy use and achieve these goals. Given the scope of this bill, passage of LD 197 would help to support additional energy reductions by substituting and using biodiesel over conventional diesel on these campuses. When this law was enacted, biodiesel was very new to Maine; now, it is growing in use and acceptance. Passage of LD 197 will support that further.
Passage of LD 197 will help to reduce global warming pollution in Maine. Global warming is a threat that will have real impacts to Maine. Some of the expected outcomes caused by global warming pollution in Maine include:
The Natural Resources Council of Maine urges you to support LD 197 as a good step toward demonstrating leadership in reducing air and global warming from state-owned facilities and vehicle fleets, and in growing the biodiesel market in Maine.
 (The higher the percentage of biodiesel in the mix with conventional diesel, the higher the reductions in pollution. For example, increasing the biodiesel mix to 100% (B100), as an example, would reduce the above-named pollutants even more – 100% for sulfates, 68%, 44%, and 40%, respectively.)