But ethanol is not the only renewable fuel making headlines. The soybean derivative biodiesel is receiving a boost from an unlikely source -- Big Oil. This week, a major oil refiner, Motiva Enterprises -- a joint venture between Shell Oil Company and Saudi Aramco -- began blending soy biodiesel with traditional fuel at a Dallas terminal this week. The refiner claims the $120,000 pilot program lends credibility to the soybean-based fuel. A spokesman for the National Biodiesel Board called the terminal blending a "behemoth step."
The move by corporate America to cash in on renewable fuels comes at a time when the ethanol industry is expanding rapidly. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the U.S. ethanol industry set a new monthly production record of 288,000 barrels per day in January. Those production numbers are expected to rise even higher in the future. The RFA estimates an additional 33 ethanol plants are under construction.
But road blocks remain for future renewable fuel expansion. Only 651 service stations out of 167,000 nationwide sell either E-85 ethanol or B-20 biodiesel --that amounts to less than half of one-percent.