2006 Biodiesel Year in Review

By Tom Bryan | December 15, 2006
If your company isn't growing, it's dying.

Just about everyone is familiar with this ubiquitous business dictum, yet many people prefer to believe companies and industries, large and small, can be sustainable and healthy without constant expansion. I generally avoid absolutes, yet I'm inclined to prescribe to the "keep growing" rule of thumb because everything I know about business, money and life tells me it's true.

So then, if growth does equate to survival in business-if we can suppose that for just a moment-then I guess you could say our industry is a picture of health right now. At this time last year, I said 2005 was a "bigger, better year" for biodiesel than almost anyone thought it would be. I said, "We've been witness to unprecedented industry expansion, landmark federal and state legislation, the formation of critical distribution partnerships, strengthened commitments from diesel engine vehicle manufacturers, and stunning growth in the sheer number of North American fleets using biodiesel blends."

Perhaps I could just say "ditto" for 2006?

In fact, the growth of biodiesel stands in sharp contrast to the relative stagnancy of the oil industry. I won't go so far as to say the oil industry is dying-it's too massive and complex to make that bold claim-but I think it's safe to say its growth is in question. After all, while the U.S. biodiesel industry currently has more than 40 facilities under construction or expansion, the U.S. oil industry hasn't built a new refinery in some 30 years. At the same time, most experts now agree that the era of peak oil either looms near or has already begun.

Try to keep these ideas in mind as you page through our 2006 Year In Review. This year's comprehensive review and update includes articles that hit on the most important issues related to process technology, fuel quality, emissions, business, project development, construction, fleets, distribution, feedstocks, coproducts, policy and more. Our hope is that these articles put the year in perspective and provide a preview of what's to come in 2007.

The compilation of articles spanning the following 46 pages begins with a look at use-from fleets to home heating oil-examining the growing acceptance of biodiesel blends over the past several months. That article is followed by a compelling look at what we call a "greater diffusion" of novel biodiesel production technologies worldwide. After that, we recap the year's biggest goings on in policy. The increase in federal and state legislation for biofuels should leave no doubt that biodiesel is becoming an important thread in the fabric of America's fuel supply. Next, we look at the raw materials of production. In the world of biodiesel feedstocks, soybeans continue to rule in the United States. As the industry grows, however, other feedstocks such as canola, corn oil and grease are gaining traction.

Our 2006 Year In Review wouldn't be complete without a story on construction, and we've focused on the biggest projects out there. A typical biodiesel plant's capacity increased significantly this year as companies like Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Cargill entered the industry. How 50 MMgy plants, and even 80 MMgy plants, will affect the rest of the industry may be determined in 2007. Fittingly, the following article points out that the industry can't afford to sacrifice fuel quality at such a defining, developmental moment in its history. We close out our Year In Review with a project development roundup, an article that highlights the intense planning, fundraising and strategizing that took place in the biodiesel industry in 2006.

With 2006 behind us, it's time to focus on what is sure to be another incredible year for biodiesel. I'd like to thank the companies, associations and individuals that provide our publication with the invaluable support it receives year round. Thank you.

Enjoy the reading.
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