A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action

By Joe Jobe | July 13, 2010
As a lifelong fan of country music, I've always found truth and solace in the lyrics of good country songs. Our theme song for 2010 has been the classic, "If You're Going Through Hell, Keep on Going," a clever lyric that Rodney Atkins borrowed from Winston Churchill. This month, more specifically, it's Toby Keith's call to action, "A little less talk and a lot more action," that really hits home.

With the catastrophe in the Gulf continuing to get worse, politicians are again talking about clean energy such as wind, solar, and advanced biofuels. But while they continue to talk and talk, their inaction on the biodiesel tax credit is allowing America's only advanced biofuel to languish.

Critics of biofuels are quick to preface their criticism by pointing out that they are supportive of advanced biofuels, but they are not supportive of conventional biofuels such as those from corn and soy. This constant disclaimer reveals a common misperception about biodiesel, that it is a conventional biofuel. In fact, biodiesel is the only domestic fuel to reach commercial scale, which meets the definition of advanced biofuel under U.S. EPA criteria and federal law, using all of our diverse domestic feedstocks. Biodiesel has been shown to have the best greenhouse gas reduction and energy balance of any domestic, liquid transportation fuel that is available today. And it is produced from an abundant and diverse variety of locally available fats and oils that are either recycled materials or byproducts of protein production. It is not a conventional biofuel-it is advanced.

While there are a number of advanced biofuel technologies that make claims about what they could do, biodiesel is the only one that has actually done it. Despite the fact that all the other so-called advanced biofuels and next-generation fuels have similar incentives available to them, biodiesel remains the first and only advanced biofuel produced on a wide scale in the U.S.

The contrast is simple. Biodiesel is a proven, successful, sustainable fuel. Others, so far, remain romantic ideas that might or might not ever happen. There are those who think that energy policy should read like romance novels. There are others who believe energy discussions should have something to do with reality, and should at some point follow the Missouri state motto-'Show Me.'

The key is securing biodiesel's image as next generation and claiming our identity as an advanced biofuel. The challenge is that others threaten to define biodiesel.

Biofuels are too often painted with one broad brush. The reality is that, like siblings, they can be as different as night and day, each having unique strengths and weaknesses. Where one lacks, another may excel. This has been lost on the public in the well-meaning but deceptively broad word, "biofuel."

Take for instance these recent headlines:

Biofuels International (April 23, 2010) "Biofuels Worse than Fossil Fuels?"

Investors' Business Daily (June 18, 2010) "For Gulf, Biofuels Are Worse Than Oil Spill"

Trucking Magazine (April 22, 2010) "Study Questions Carbon Footprint of Biodiesel"

Reuters (April 2010) "Scientists say growing grain for food, not fuel, more energy efficient"

These are proof positive that we need to do a better job of telling our story. Instead of being defined by others, we must define our own self. It is critical we brand ourselves as America's first and currently only advanced biofuel.

With renewable fuel standard volumes kicking in and signs of economy rehabilitation on the horizon, it is likely that we will again face increasingly fierce and misplaced criticism over food versus fuel and indirect land use. While these are not unfamiliar foes, we know that support for biodiesel is easily shaken by targeted misinformation.

From a national view, this effort is well underway. We are working with members and stakeholders to provide tools and materials to help them enact this message in their own communications and strengthen biodiesel's position as an advanced biofuel. This spring we ran a two-week ad push in D.C.-based publications that also captured that message.

Biodiesel is an advanced biofuel; it is next generation fuel; it is the fuel of the future that is here now. All of us need to repeat this message everywhere we go, 40 times per day. Like any great county song, we have a great story to tell. Now we just need to tell it until everyone knows all the words by heart.


Joe Jobe, CEO, National Biodiesel Board
 
 
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