The Myths Of Renewable Diesel

While visiting family in Eugene, I read with some interest the recent letter to the editor (“Empty Nest(e),” March 9) regarding the “Fried Fuels” article from Feb. 9. I would like to offer a couple of insights.

First, the Marathon-Neste refinery conversion project in Martinez, California, is very controversial. The irregular approval by Contra Costa County authorities of the California Environmental Quality Act review of the project is being challenged in court. The refinery is currently not producing any fuel at all, having been shuttered due to the demand destruction of the pandemic shut down.

Secondly, hydrotreated vegetable oil refining requires massive amounts of hydrogen, procured by the steam reformation of fossil gas. Refining this drop-in liquid biofuel is fossil fuel intensive and generates more greenhouse gas emissions than making diesel from petroleum.

Lastly, though used cooking oil can be a sustainable feedstock for liquid biofuels, it is an incredibly constrained feedstock. Evidence shows that the scaling up of production of renewable diesel requires the use of soy, canola and other high deforestation-risk commodities as feedstock. The push for renewable diesel is putting global forests on the chopping block.

Unfortunately, the Eugene Weekly coverage did not address these dynamics. I hope that future coverage of these matters will include informed perspectives challenging the myths characterizing renewable diesel and the related “sustainable” aviation fuel as a climate solution.

Gary Hughes

Redway, California