The State and HVB

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

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

In the region of Agen, a hundred cars have been running for several years with crude vegetable oil (HVB) from Valénergol (Energy recovery from oilseeds), the company that this environmental mason created in 1996 with about twenty friends to "To prove in life size that it is possible to manufacture its energy without any government or economic supervision". Five years later, the experience is coming to an end. If the manufacture and use of vegetable fuel did not pose any problem, Valénergol on the other hand did not succeed in freeing itself from tax supervision. Seized of a complaint of the national direction of the 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 tax on petroleum products (TIPP), from which all biofuels are exempt - 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 much too easy to make. ". "Customs do not want to hear about it," continues Etienne Poitrat, head of biofuels at the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe).

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

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

It is that it takes courage or unconsciousness to use this oil scientifically condemned, since 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 "clogs the cylinders" of the engines of which it "deteriorates the quality of the 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 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 oil to provide a new industrial outlet for oilseed producers. Disabled by the reform of the common agricultural policy which required 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 small traders then entered the capital of Sofiprotéol, the financial organization for the oilseed sector, which has invested hundreds of millions of francs in the construction of three chemical esterification plants. "The sector has been well locked by professionals in the field", summarizes Jean-Marie Charles, at the Secretary of State for Industry. "Producers are no longer in control," adds Mr. Gröber, also a producer of organic sunflowers. All the oil goes to a single factory to which we are obliged to sell. "

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Favorable studies

A last actor was finally to help ensure that the production of vegetable oil is 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 the expertise to 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 to buying at 8 francs per liter of oils from manufacturers and partners of Sofiprotéol, ie three times the price at which we could manufacture it ourselves”, remembers Jean-Loup LESUEUR, president of the Agriculture and green energies association, one of the very first French motorists to drive on sunflower. Presented to Ademe experts in 1998, as part of a national competition on the production of biofuels, the Valénergol project did not have the chance 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 financing".

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Confronted with the monopoly of industrialists, technical obstacles, unfavorable studies, the exemption from TIPP reserved for the ester sector alone, crude vegetable oil craftsmen quickly had no other choice than to pursue alone and without public aid, sometimes illegally, their experiments on carburetion. Other organizations, such as the Midi-Pyrénées Regional Council, have deemed the process sufficiently promising to accept, against the advice of Mr. POITRAT at Ademe, to finance their project by paying the TIPP on each liter of vegetable fuel consumed. by tractors. Started in November 1999, the experiment is in progress.

Le Monde, paper edition October 2001

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