Interesting Times

By Ron Kotrba | January 09, 2020

We are living in interesting, historic times.  On the cusp of our nation’s third impeachment trial of a sitting U.S. president in the Senate over a nearly 250-year history—had Richard Nixon not resigned, it likely would have been four—we are treading waters rarely ventured. Other than Andrew Johnson’s impeachment in the 1860s, all other impeachment proceedings have taken place in the past 45 years,
with Nixon’s in 1974, Bill Clinton’s in 1998 and now Trump’s in 2019-’20. None of the previous efforts had ever culminated in a conviction in the Senate and removal of a president from office, and today’s impeachment is unlikely to either. However, the difference is that none of the previous presidents faced an election following impeachment, so this is new territory.

Despite one’s view on impeachment, the hyperpartisan, polarized nature of our Republic today is a travesty—particularly when whole sectors of the economy, like biodiesel, are relying on our executive and legislative branches of government to work together and do the people’s business, such as reinstating the biodiesel tax credit that’s been expired for nearly two years, and following RFS law to grow advanced biofuels. With any hope and luck, by the time you are reading this, the incentive will have been reinstated. At press time, the House passed a $1.4 trillion spending package that included a five-year extension of the full $1 per gallon credit, retroactive from its expiration on Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2022. 

In October, I made more than 100 calls and sent countless emails to biodiesel producers across the U.S. and Canada for our 2020 plant map data collection efforts. The state of the tax credit was center stage in most of these conversations as producers shared their experiences with me—how many of them, of you, were readying to cut production further than they already had or idle their plants altogether if at least a modicum of certainty did not return. It was hard listening to the despair in many of their, your, voices. For a review of the data gleaned from this project and trends seen in the industry, be sure to read “2020 Biodiesel Plant Map Reflections” on page 36.

As you will read in our producer profile, “Coming Full Circle” on page 14, Pacific Biodiesel turns 25 years old this year. The changes the company has endured since its founding in 1995 are akin to a microcosm of how the industry has been forced to adapt to uncertainty and market highs and lows throughout the years. Little did Bob and Kelly King know then in the mid-’90s that come 2020 they could call themselves America’s longest operating producer. Furthermore, the retail biodiesel pump they installed turned out to be America’s first. Congratulations to Bob, Kelly, Jenna and the entire King family and Pacific Biodiesel team!

Despite the hardship producers have endured, there is no shortage of innovation in the world of biodiesel, as evidenced in our cover article and Spotlight section, “Innovations in Biodiesel Technology,” on page 24; and by our contribution article, “Making Biodiesel Profitable Without Tax Credits?” on page 40, written by Etienne Sturm with Air Liquide Engineering & Construction.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Tampa in January, and in Minneapolis this June at our inaugural Biodiesel Production Technology Summit. To learn more about this event, or to submit an abstract by Feb. 14, visit BiodieselTechnologySummit.com. Until then, keep the dream alive!


Author: Ron Kotrba
Editor
Biodiesel Magazine
rkotrba@bbiinternational.com

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