NBB In Sight

WWW: Willie, Weaver and George W.
By Joseph Jobe | July 01, 2005
Biodiesel has experienced a boost in its public profile that can be called nothing short of monumental. Yet, it is interesting to me how perspectives on the biodiesel industry differ vastly between stakeholders who have only been involved in the industry a short time versus the hardened veterans who have worked on biodiesel for many years.

On one hand, the success that the industry has experienced in the past month has not fully sunk in for many of us who have been around biodiesel for a long time. This is a group that has dug in for the long haul, and those in it know better than to over-inflate expectations because of a few positive developments. On the other hand, folks that are relatively new to biodiesel might subconsciously think that this is just par for the course. Haven't we always had some of the most beloved entertainers promoting biodiesel all over the airwaves? Haven't we always had across-the-board support in Congress to achieve our policy initiatives? Haven't we always had the President of the United States giving energy speeches from biodiesel plants and calling it "one of the nation's most promising alternative fuels?" Uh no.

Biodiesel has had more recognition in the last month, from the highest levels and from all different directions, than most products get in the course of their entire existence. When actor Dennis Weaver learned of the Spinx Co. truck stop event in Greer, S.C., offering Willie Nelson Biodiesel, he and his very gracious wife Gerry traveled 12 hours to participate. Besides his phenomenal acting career that spans almost 60 years, Mr. Weaver has also been very successful in his efforts as a renewable energy advocate. "This is an incredibly exciting day," he said at the event. "We are thinking about the future and no longer stuck in what we've done in the past. The simple truth is we cannot grow oil. Here today we are changing the way we relate to the earth."

Willie, Weaver, and George W. were all very powerful voices last month, having dramatically lifted the level of discourse about American biodiesel. But before we become too proud of ourselves, let's be mindful of the fact that our work is not done. In fact, in some ways it is just beginning. The biodiesel tax credit must remain the industry's top priority until it is extended. That process is on track, but we must be vigilant until it is done. Rapid industry growth has its own set of challenges. The surge in demand and corresponding surge in production of biodiesel has put a heightened emphasis on fuel quality. Biodiesel has a pristine image as a quality fuel. We must do everything in our power to protect that reputation as we continue to grow.

Another important issue that must be embraced as we continue this period of rapid industry expansion is safety. As industry stakeholders rush to expand capacity, it is important that safety standards do not suffer. Alcohol used in the biodiesel reaction can be a very dangerous industrial product if not handled properly. Biodiesel is one of the safest fuels to produce, store and handle. It is important that we keep it that way.

There is no question that this is an exciting time to be involved in the biodiesel industry. I am very proud of this industry and the success we have experienced. We are very blessed by the leaders and public figures who are making great personal efforts to help the biodiesel cause.

Joseph Jobe
National Biodiesel Board
Executive Director
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