The state and HVB

Here is an article a little old but probably still relevant.

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

In the Agen region, a hundred cars have been driving for several years with crude vegetable oil (HVB) from Valénergol (Energy recovery from oilseeds), the company that this ecological mason created in 1996 with twenty friends for "Prove in real size that it is possible to produce energy without any tutelage, government or economic". Five years later, the experiment comes to an end. If the manufacture and use of vegetable fuel posed no problem, Valénergol did not however succeed in getting rid of tax supervision. Seized of a complaint by the national direction of customs investigations, the police court of Agen condemned the two managers of the company, on October 18, to pay 33 francs to the Treasury for having sold to motorists "at least 000 liters of sunflower oil ”without paying the internal petroleum product tax (TIPP), from which all biofuels are exempt - with the sole exception of crude sunflower, rapeseed and coconut oils. According to Markus Gröber, owner of a small artisanal oil mill near Agen, which supplies three tractors with fuel, "the oil that is produced for the engines has only one fault: it is much too easy to make ". "Customs do not want to hear about it," says Etienne Poitrat, responsible for biofuels at the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe).

Read also: Pure vegetable oil: engineer's report

For the State, which collects 160 billion francs each year under the TIPP, the risk of tax evasion is taken all the more seriously since the production of this fuel is uncontrollable and its manufacturing process within the reach of all. All it takes is a small press of 30 francs, one or two plastic vats and a few hundred coffee filters, marvels Mr. JUSTE, who has tinkered with a battery of funnels to remove impurities from this viscous liquid sold 000 francs per liter. The low cost of oil (duty free) and the vigilance of customs alone do not explain the embryonic development of this renewable energy source, well known to engine manufacturers for over a century.

If more than a hundred motorists use it clandestinely every day in France, only a dozen legal experiments have been carried out to date on agricultural machines.

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

Favorable studies

Read also: Miscible oil and diesel

A final player was finally to help ensure that the production of vegetable oil was used only for food. Ademe, where all the major French energy companies (TotalFinaElf, EDF, GDF, Rhône Poulenc, etc.) are represented on the board of directors, and which alone provides all of the expertise to public authorities on renewable energies, has never hidden its doubts about the "unreliable" qualities of vegetable oils. "To benefit from the support of Ademe, we had to commit to buying oil and industrialists and Sofiprotéol partners at 8 francs per liter, triple the price at which we could make it ourselves," remembers Jean-Loup LESUEUR, president of the Agriculture and Green Energies association, one of the very first French motorists to drive with sunflowers. Presented to Ademe experts in 1998, as part of a national competition on the production of biofuels, the Valénergol project was not lucky enough to be accepted, officially on the grounds that it was too ambitious . But for Mr. POITRAT, "it is the Ministry of Finance which opposed its funding".

Read also: Oleaginous microalgae

Faced with the monopoly of industrialists, technical obstacles, unfavorable studies, the exemption from TIPP reserved only for the ester sector, the artisans of crude vegetable oil quickly had no other choice but to pursue alone and without public aid, sometimes illegally, their experiences on carburetion. Other organizations, such as the Midi-Pyrénées regional council, considered the process promising enough to accept, against the opinion of Mr. POITRAT at Ademe, to finance their project by paying TIPP on each liter of vegetable fuel consumed by tractors. Begun in November 1999, the experiment is underway.

Le Monde, paper edition October 2001

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