The state and HVB

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Keywords: HVB, HVP, vegetable oil fuel, diesel, tax, Tipp, ademe, state money.

In the region of Agen, a hundred cars have been rolling for several years with the raw vegetable oil (HVB) of Valénergol (Energy valorization of oilseeds), the society that this mason ecologist created in 1996 with twenty friends for "To prove in life size that it is possible to manufacture one's energy without any supervision, governmental or economic". Five years later, the experience is coming to an end. Although the manufacture and use of vegetable fuel posed no problem, Valénergol did not succeed in getting rid of tax supervision. Seized of a complaint of the national direction of the customs investigations, the court of police of Agen condemned the two managers of the company, the 18 October, to pay 33 000 francs to the Treasury for having sold to motorists "as a minimum 10 000 liters of sunflower oil 'without paying the Domestic Tax on Petroleum Products (TIPP), which is exempt from all biofuels - with the sole exception of crude sunflower, rapeseed or coconut oils. According to Markus Gröber, owner of a small artisanal oil mill near Agen, which supplies three tractors with fuel, "the oil we produce for engines has only one flaw: it is far too easy to do ". "Customs do not want to hear about it," says Etienne Poitrat, head of biofuels at the Agency for the environment and energy management (Ademe).

For the state, which receives each year 160 billion francs under the TIPP, the risk of tax avoidance is taken even more seriously than the production of this fuel is uncontrollable and its manufacturing process in the scope of all. Simply a small press 30 000 francs, one or two cells in plastic and a few hundred coffee filters, marvels Mr. FAIR, which tinkered a battery funnels to remove impurities this viscous liquid sold 4 francs per liter. The low oil prices (excluding tax) and customs vigilance does not alone explain the embryonic development of this renewable energy, well-known engine manufacturers for over a century.

If more than a hundred motorists daily use in France illegally, only a dozen legal experiments were conducted to date on agricultural machinery.

It takes a lot of courage or unconsciousness to use this scientifically condemned oil from 1993 in a controversial report to the Prime Minister. Written by Raymond Levy, former CEO of Renault and ex-number two Elf, the document explained in three lines how the direct use of the oil "fouls the cylinders" engines which "deteriorates the quality of lubricants." A year earlier, a young doctor from the University of Poitiers, Gilles Vaïtilingom, had nevertheless devoted his thesis to the applications of an oil that can be used without any problem in all diesel engines with indirect injection. The researcher has never been consulted. The Levy report responded to a specific order: that of "increasing the competitiveness of the diester sector", made from rapeseed, compared to diesel to provide a new industrial outlet for oilseed producers. Worried by the reform of the common agricultural policy which forced them to freeze 10% of their land, they were offered, with the diester, an unexpected outlet for the cultivation of their fallow land, authorized for energy purposes. All the agricultural cooperatives and the small traders then entered the capital of Sofiprotéol, the financial agency of the oleaginous sector, which invested hundreds of millions of francs in the construction of three chemical factories of esterification. "The industry has been well locked by professionals," says Jean-Marie Charles, at the State Secretariat for Industry. "Producers have no control over anything," adds Mr Gröber, also a producer of organic sunflower. All the oil goes to a single factory that we are forced to sell. "

Favorable studies

A last actor was to finally contribute to the production of vegetable oil only for food. Ademe, where all major French energy companies (TotalFinaElf, EDF, GDF, Rhône Poulenc, etc.) are represented on the Board of Directors, and which alone provides all the expertise to the public authorities on renewable energies, has never hidden his doubts about the "unreliable" qualities of vegetable oils. "To benefit from the support of Ademe, we had to commit ourselves to buy 8 francs the liter of oils for Sofiprotéol's manufacturers and partners, which is three times the price at which we could manufacture it ourselves". remembers Jean-Loup LESUEUR, president of the association Agriculture and green energy, one of the first French motorists to ride sunflowers. Presented to the experts of the Ademe, in 1998, in the context of a national competition on the production of biofuels, the project of Valénergol did not have the chance to be retained, officially on the grounds that it was too ambitious . But for Mr. POITRAT, "it is the Ministry of Finance who opposed its funding".

Faced with the monopoly of industrial, technical locks, adverse studies to the exemption from TIPP reserved solely ester chain, the artisans of crude vegetable oil have quickly had more choice but to continue alone and without public aid, sometimes illegally, their experiences on the carburetion. Other organizations, such as the Regional Council of Midi-Pyrénées, rated the process sufficiently promising to accept, against the advice of Mr. POITRAT to ADEME to finance their project by paying the TIPP on every liter of fuel consumed vegetable by tractors. Begun in November 1999, the experiment is in progress.

Le Monde, paper edition October 2001


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