The State and the 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 crude vegetable oil (HVB) of Valenergol (Energy recovery of oilseeds), the company that this environmental mason has created in 1996 with twenty friends for "To prove in full size that it is possible to manufacture its energy without any tutelage, governmental or economic". Five years later, the experiment is coming to an end. Although the manufacture and use of vegetable fuel were not a problem, Valenergol did not succeed in freeing itself from tax guardianship. In a complaint by the National Directorate of Customs Investigations, the Agen Police Court convicted the two managers of the company, 18 October, to pay 33 000 francs to the Treasury for selling motorists "at minimum 10 000 liters of sunflower oil "without paying the domestic tax on petroleum products (TIPP), which exempts all biofuels - with the sole exception of raw oils of sunflower, rapeseed or coconut. According to Markus Gröber, owner of a small artisanal oil mill near Agen, which supplies three tractors with fuel, "the oil produced for the engines has only one defect: it is much too simple to make ". "Customs do not want to hear about it," says Etienne Poitrat, head of biofuels at the Environment and Energy Management Agency (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 is that it takes courage or unconsciousness to use this scientifically condemned oil, as early as 1993, in a controversial report handed over to the Prime Minister. Written by Raymond Levy, former CEO of Renault and ex-Elf number two, the document explained in three lines how the direct use of oil "clogs the cylinders" of engines which "deteriorates the quality of lubricants". A year earlier, a young Ph.D. from the University of Poitiers, Gilles Vailtilom, had devoted his thesis to the applications of an oil that could 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 request: to increase the competitiveness of the diester sector, made from rapeseed, relative to diesel fuel, in order to provide a new industrial outlet for oilseed producers. Disempowered 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 agricultural cooperatives and small traders then entered the capital of Sofiprotéol, the financial organization of the oilseed sector, which invested hundreds of millions of francs in the construction of three esterification chemical plants. "The industry has been well locked by professionals," says Jean-Marie Charles, at the State Secretariat for Industry. "Producers are no longer in control," says Gröber, who also produces organic sunflower. All the oil goes into a single factory to which we are forced to sell. "

Favorable studies

Finally, a last actor had to 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, which provides all the expertise to the public authorities on renewable energies, has never hidden his doubts about the "unreliable" qualities of vegetable oils. "In order to benefit from Ademe's support, we had to commit ourselves to buying 8 francs per liter of oils to the industrialists and partners of Sofiprotéol, 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 very first French motorists to ride sunflower. Presented to the experts of the Ademe, in 1998, in the framework of a national contest on the production of biofuels, the project of Valenergol did not have the chance to be retained, officially because it was too ambitious . But for Mr. POITRAT, "it is the Ministry of Finance that has opposed its financing".

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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