Ohio

Ohio Auditor Says “Going Green” is Costing Taxpayers Millions

Policy

A 2006 mandate requiring state vehicles to be filled with blended biodiesel fuel is costing taxpayers millions according to a financial report released by the Ohio state auditor. The departmental review report by Auditor of State Dave Yost found that the mandate increased spending within the Ohio Department of Transportation by $3.3 million.

Former Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, signed the biofuel mandate into law with the intention of reducing government fuel costs. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and subsidizing Ohio’s farming industry were perceived as added bonuses for Taft.

The law mandated that state agencies use biodiesel — an alternative fuel made by blending traditional diesel with soybean or corn products — when filling up at the gas pump. According to Yost’s report, biofuel was 36 cents per gallon more expensive than regular diesel. The mandated biodiesel is also 2 percent less efficient than traditional petroleum diesel according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  Biodiesel is 80 percent traditional diesel and 20 percent “soybean-derived oil.”

The legislation mandated that agencies purchase at least 1 million gallons of biofuel every year. Agencies were also required to purchase flexible-fuel vehicles, which can run on either regular gasoline or biofuels, when replacing fleet vehicles.

According to figures from the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, 97 percent of all biofuel purchased by the state was purchased by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). ODOT used 2.6 million gallons of biofuel, or over 202 percent more than it was required to buy.

Yost’s report recommended that ODOT cut back on the amount of biofuel it purchases, but ODOT spokesman Steve Faulkner insisted that such a cut was impossible until the mandate was removed by the Ohio General Assembly.

The Ohio Soybean Association (OSA), whose products are used in the creation of biofuels, was predictably unhappy with the auditor’s recommendation.

OSA president Bret Davis told Biodiesel Magazine that “biodiesel is a sustainable, more environmentally-friendly fuel made from renewable resources grown right here in Ohio.”

Biodiesel Magazine’s editor, Ron Kotrba, called Yost’s recommendations “schizophrenic,” writing that he believes taxpayer advocates such as Yost should cut welfare programs before looking to trim “green” initiatives.

“When I go to a convenience store in a city that has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, and I get caught behind a fully capable, healthy looking man in his late 20s—the prime of a man’s life—and he is using an EBT card to buy soda pop and beef jerky, I know there is a lot of waste in the budget that can be trimmed without compromising national security,” Kotrba wrote in a May 23 column. “But it sure seems like the U.S. finds a little oil in western North Dakota and the next thing you know, the government is repealing smart, prudent renewable policy, leaving domestic, advanced biofuel producers to die on the vine. And that ain’t right.”

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