NBB Members: Take Heart

By Joe Jobe | April 15, 2009
None of us ever wanted to know this. Surviving an economic crisis is a terrible experience. In the biodiesel business, it has been nothing short of traumatic. Dozens of biodiesel producers have plants that are going out of business or sitting idle. These are not just large, faceless corporations. These are National Biodiesel Board members family-owned businesses, small businesses and farmer-owned cooperatives. It is devastating for us to see so many lights go out in the plants of our members.

But take heart. It may be hard to appreciate this at a time when so many are suffering, but we will survive this crisis. I believe whole-heartedly that, although it is hard to imagine now, we are among the fortunate. Why? Because the biodiesel industry is exactly the type of green industry this country so desperately needs to turn things around. And that has been recognized by the man in charge.

In his first address to a joint session of Congress, and in subsequent press conferences, President Barack Obama promoted a bold "new energy" agenda. He's called for ensuring a vibrant, renewable energy industry as one key element of his economic recovery and energy security plan. "We will invest 15 billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America," Obama said.

This is good news for our members. Biodiesel is the only fuel commercially available today that meets all the federal government's criteria of an "advanced biofuel." And it's the only game in town when it comes to real, renewable energy for heavy-duty vehicles. But biodiesel is facing monumental challenges in helping to make the president's vision of energy independence a reality.

What do our members bring? In a time of financial uncertainty, biodiesel's contributions to the American economy are abundant. Last year alone, U.S. biodiesel producers supported 50,000 green collar jobs, contributed $4 billion to the nation's economy, and displaced almost 700 million gallons of petroleum.

The NBB's robust communications and government affairs efforts are leading the charge to make sure the public and Congress know this. Our public policy vision will put all the elements in place to make the economics of this industry work. The Governmental Affairs program is just one of the many ways NBB helps remove barriers for this industry, but it is the single most important service we provide to our members. And your NBB governing board is leading the way forward. It is structured to represent those who make up the biodiesel community and is an engaged, active group of leaders.

Recently, they came together in Washington, D.C. to discuss the major issues facing the industry, and to meet with the tax-writing committees and other key Members of Congress.

They asked policymakers to put in place a stable policy framework that will signal a long-term federal commitment to a policy valuing the displacement of petroleum diesel with low carbon biodiesel. Specifically, the Governing Board discussed the need for a long-term extension of a biodiesel tax incentive that is structured as a production excise tax credit, consistent with NBB membership resolutions. They also explained the pressing need for successful implementation of a workable Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2). This effort helped yield a letter from 12 U.S. Senators to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and 19 U.S. House Members to Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, urging the Obama Administration to quickly implement RFS2 in a manner consistent with sound science. And in such a way that allows the biodiesel industry to utilize vegetable oils as a feedstock. The entire Governing Board also met personally with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack promised and followed through on holding discussions with EPA Administrator Jackson about implementation of RFS2, and also reported his directive to put a priority on the implementation of the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, a program that will help biodiesel producers, which was reauthorized in the Farm Bill.

NBB is dedicated to doing everything possible to achieve and demonstrate value to its members through federal policy, communications, technical research, and beyond. This month's Inside NBB discusses how some of those programs benefit the industry.

Despite the current struggles, biodiesel has always been like the Little Fuel that Could. It is now a much bigger fuel and the stakes are higher, the challenges larger. But just like that little locomotive that made it over a steep and dangerous mountain by not giving up, biodiesel must take heart and keep on chugging over this current mountain right on to the next one.

Joe Jobe
Chief Executive Officer
National Biodiesel Board
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