Boston- State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) and State Representative Christopher N. Speranzo (D-Pittsfield) today joined Governor Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi and Congressman William D. Delahunt at a State House announcement promoting a legislative proposal advancing biofuels as a way to reduce dependence of foreign oil, capture clean-air benefits, and capitalize on clean-fuel research for economic growth and jobs. This initiative, pursued by the three top leaders of state government, will solidify the Commonwealth’s position as a national and global leader in clean energy technology.
The legislation, which proposes a gas-tax incentive for cellulosic ethanol, is projected to create 3,000 new jobs in Massachusetts and pump $320 million into the economy as the advanced ethanol is brought to market. If passed, this bill would be a boon for Pittsfield’s Berkshire Biodiesel, which will become the state’s largest producer of biofuels. The plant will produce 50 million gallons of soybean-oil-based biodiesel annually. Plant construction is expected to begin in mid- to late-2007, with biodiesel production starting in late 2008.
“Massachusetts has the opportunity to be international leaders in the clean energy economy,” said Downing. “I applaud the Administration and Leadership for taking the reigns on this critical issue. Promoting development of domestic biofuels not only makes environmental and economic sense, it eases our dependence on foreign oil, which is a national security issue and concerns everyone.”
Representative Speranzo said, “This legislation will help the Commonwealth by reducing our dependency on foreign oil and instead, thanks to Berkshire Biodiesel, invest that money back into out own community. It is an exciting time for Massachusetts and I look forward to working with Governor, Senate President, and Speaker of the House on this matter.”
The bill will require all diesel and home heating fuel sold in the Commonwealth to contain a minimum level of renewable, biobased alternatives in their blends, with that level rising from two percent in 2010 to five percent in 2013. These mandates will help build Massachusetts’ emerging biofuel refinery and distribution sector. Three refineries are in the planning stages including Berkshire Biodiesel which will occupy the former Beloit R&D manufacturing site off Hubbard Avenue in Pittsfield.
Executive Vice President of Berkshire Biodiesel, Lee Harrison, also joined the officials for today’s announcement at the State House, “This is the leadership the country has been waiting for. The true cost of fuel is not what you are charged at the pump. Once you factor in the cost of war in Iraq, the cost of keeping the sea lanes open, the subsidies to Middle-Eastern countries to retain favor and stabilize the regime, and the cost of pollution and global warming, the true cost of a gallon of gas is much more than the price paid at the pump. I am happy to see Leadership in the State House institute these kinds of mandates. This is a credit to our political leaders. I am happy to be a Bay-Stater today.”
Several other states have biodiesel content standards, but Massachusetts would be the first to establish a biofuel standard for home heating oil- of particular significance because the Northeast makes much greater use of oil for home heating than other parts of the country.
This legislation also exempts for the state gasoline tax ethanol derived from sources such as forest products, switchgrass and agricultural wastes. Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to provide a tax incentive for cellulosic ethanol, an environmentally beneficial next-generation biofuel that Massachusetts-based companies are now rushing to bring to market. By signaling that cellulosic ethanol will not be taxed, the Administration and Legislature are sending a message to emerging refineries and distribution companies that Massachusetts will be a ready-market for clean fuels.
According to the Administration, consumers will not experience an increase in energy costs due to production and incorporation of cellulosic ethanol. In fact, consumers may save money. Crude oil is priced at more than $90/barrel and subject to huge inflation. Moving toward homegrown fuels will reduce market volatility and costs at the pump. Currently, petroleum containing two percent biodiesel is priced at $3.02/gallon, while straight petroleum diesel costs $3.19/gallon- a difference of 17 cents per gallon. As the price of crude oil continues to rise, biodiesel fuel is expected to become even more economic.
While Massachusetts cannot single-handedly reverse the effects of climate change, this legislation will slow down our contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption and serve as a model for other states. This legislation is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.1 million tons annually by 2014. Other harmful pollutants that contribute to asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases will also be reduced, creating a cleaner, healthier environment.
The Governor, Speaker, and Senate President also announced they would create a task force to explore other ways to promote advanced biofuels for their environmental and energy benefits as well as the economic benefits of a growing clean fuels industry based in Massachusetts.