Politics: Not Everyone Sees Eye to Eye

By Jessica Sobolik | March 09, 2009
I usually avoid talking about politics in order to avoid the debate that inevitably follows. It's not that I don't have an opinion, but I like to keep an open mind about republicans and democrats, right and left, conservatives and liberals. I honestly don't know which category I belong in, so I've been content in simply observing from a distance. However,

today I find myself thinking about politics.

I've been watching President Barack Obama's speeches with interest (I believe he is a better public speaker than George W. Bush), waiting for him to say something profound about renewable energy. So far, he's only mentioned biofuels in general, and it appears energy independence has taken a backseat to the global economy and the war in Iraq, perhaps rightfully so.

However, the importance of politics, or more so policy, has not taken a backseat within the biodiesel industry. Once again, it was a major focus of this year's National Biodiesel Conference in San Francisco, an event that Senior Staff Writer Ron Kotrba details in a feature beginning on page 40. In fact, an entire educational track was dedicated to policy and regulations, including climate change, European exports, tax incentives and the renewable fuels standard. It will continue to be one of the National Biodiesel Board's 2009 priorities.

Obama won't be directly forming this country's biodiesel policy, of course. Those tasks will be handled by his carefully chosen administration, including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. The administration's energy strategy and key players are highlighted in a feature by Staff Writer Erin Voegele that begins on page 48.

Voegele has also been diligently reading through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more commonly known as the stimulus bill, which Obama signed on Feb. 17. Details from the package continue to surface (check out the Web exclusives on the Biodiesel Magazine Web site), but so far the language appears to focus mostly on biofuels and biomass, which could include algae and other biodiesel feedstocks. Legislators kept the initial terminology vague with the idea that it would be clarified later, and this all-encompassing strategy allows them to avoid adding new terms down the road. Still, I'd say it's likely that this legislation will impact the biodiesel industry in a positive way.

When I think more about biodiesel and politics, I realize that there shouldn't be much debate. Regardless of one's political persuasion, all should agree that energy independence is a priority. Sure, some may disagree on how the policies should be implemented, how much they should cost and who should pay for them … but hey, look at that, I appear to have reached the end of this column.

Jessica Sobolik
Managing Editor
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