Biodiesel and Sustainability: You Can't Have One Without the Other

By | March 17, 2008
One of the many highlights at the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo this year was the announcement by NBB Chairman Ed Hegland of his appointment of Emily Bockian Landsburg to chair a newly-formed Sustainability Task Force. Emily has a strong background in renewable energy and sustainability, including volunteering her time as an organizer of the Sustainable Biodiesel Summit. Emily works for the Energy Cooperative in Philadelphia, which is dedicated to producing high-quality biodiesel from trap grease.

Immediately following the conference, Emily and Ed launched a search for the remaining eight task force members who should be seated about the time this article goes to print.

The meaning of sustainability as it pertains to biodiesel is as wide-ranging and diverse as the membership of the NBB. Ed and Emily were determined to appoint task force members who would represent all these viewpoints and who can help develop and recommend policies which will address issues of sustainability for our industry. Such stakeholders will include farmers, small and large biodiesel producers representing the variety of feedstocks used in biodiesel, and other NBB members with in-depth knowledge of safety, environmental practices and sustainable economic models. Partnerships will also be established with external groups through an advisory committee that will provide an even wider range of expertise to the task force.

Biodiesel has great potential for making our way of life more sustainable. Soy-based biodiesel, which still represents 80 percent of the biodiesel made in the United States, reduces greenhouse gas emissions 78 percent. Improved farming practices in recent years have resulted in an energy balance that is now 3.5-to-1 for biodiesel-higher than any alternative fuel. There is no doubt that domestic production of fuel makes America more sustainable in terms of economics and energy security.

It is my hope that the Sustainability Task Force will help shine the spotlight on the peer-reviewed studies that prove these benefits and bring scrutiny to ill-informed alarmists that cloud public perception with statements that are not supported by accurate analysis. I'm referring to recent media buzz about biofuels stimulating harmful land use changes in remote parts of the globe. Destruction of the rain forest and loss of wildlife habitat is a disaster that concerns us all. Biodiesel produced in the United States is grown on domestic acreage that, according to USDA reports, has not increased since 1959. The Sustainability Task Force will examine the potential for land use change and identify ways that this industry can prevent or reverse such threats to sustainability.

As an industry whose goal is to help contribute to our nation's sustainability, it is important that we take a leadership role in developing practical and meaningful policy which will lead to comprehensive sustainability.

Joe Jobe
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