Kevin Crutchfield: Increased sustainable aviation fuel tax credit puts NC economic success in jeopardy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 15, 2023

In North Carolina, we’re lucky to live in a state that is thriving and has become one of the most desirable places to live in America.

CNBC’s annual state competitiveness rankings recently placed North Carolina as the nation’s top state for business in 2022. But that strong economy means North Carolina potentially has the most to lose of any state in America thanks to an unfair tax credit given to the airline industry that could cripple the biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel markets.

In 2021, USDA awarded North Carolina funds enabling our state to install a truck rack biodiesel blending system at a North Carolina distribution facility. Thanks to this new investment, we’re expected to see 24 million gallons of additional biodiesel consumed each year.

Unfortunately, further investments in facilities like this one will go by the wayside with the implementation of the increased sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) tax credit.

The increase to the SAF tax credit, driven by the airline industry and recently passed by Congress, will give a significantly larger tax credit for the production of SAF than the tax credit for producing other biofuels. Margins in the biofuel industry are measured in cents, not dollars. An opportunity for producers to, in some cases, receive a 75 percent larger tax credit for SAF production becomes extremely discriminatory to other biofuels. Inevitably, this will divert resources from biodiesel and renewable diesel in favor of producing the environmentalist-favored sustainable aviation fuel.

As a result, there will be less supply of biodiesel, resulting in a decrease in demand for upgraded facilities and a decline in future biodiesel investment. The Biden Administration and congressional leadership are stifling much-needed innovation and investment, while increasing the prices on consumers and business operators.

By propping up SAF at the expense of biodiesel, renewable diesel, and other alternative biofuels, we’re harming both North Carolina’s economy and our environment at the same time. Producers like Blue Ridge Biofuels, which recently received a grant from the USDA and is a North Carolina-based biodiesel producer, will be faced with the reality that it will be more economically beneficial to produce SAF fuel instead of the biodiesel that many of our industries depend on to deliver and receive goods.

With the implementation of the increased SAF tax credit, the federal government’s overreach is on full display. The show of favoritism toward the airline industry will drastically harm other biofuels like biodiesel and the negative impacts it will have on the trucking industry and everyday North Carolinians cannot be overstated. From peppers to paper towels, if Congress doesn’t fix the problem it created, we’ll all be stuck paying more.

DAT ranked North Carolina as a top-10 state in America for outbound freight in 2020. Thanks to this federal policy, that ranking is sure to drop due to the significant impact on North Carolina’s trucking industry, which will ultimately be incredibly harmful to businesses of all shapes and sizes in North Carolina. If the trucking industry suffers, North Carolina’s economy will suffer as well, and our spot as the nation’s top economy is likely to be short-lived.

Leveling the tax credits among biofuels, including SAF, is a way North Carolina’s congressional leaders like Senator Tillis can step up to the plate and stand up for North Carolinians. The airline industry doesn’t need another bailout at the expense of North Carolina consumers.

Our state is experiencing a time of economic prosperity. We need leaders who are willing to take the necessary steps to protect the workers, consumers, and businesses that make North Carolina such a great place to live, work, and do business.

Kevin Crutchfield is a Republican representing District 83 that covers Rowan and Cabarrus counties.