Talking Point

Building a sustainable biodiesel industry
By Paul J. Nazzaro | November 01, 2007
For the past decade, I've been privileged to represent the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) as its petroleum liaison, conveying vital information of assistance to refiners, distributors, and pipeline and terminal operators anxious to understand how best to become involved in the emerging biodiesel industry. I recognized from the first day that no matter how green, renewable or attractive biodiesel was, petroleum organizations throughout the supply chain would be asking "what's in it for us," in much the same way as ordinary consumers.

Biodiesel producers and marketers, and petroleum participants and organizations that support these collaborating industries, need to pause and reflect on how well-developed the biodiesel industry has become and how far it needs to go to become a truly viable business.

Biodiesel has its own quality specification, ASTM D 6751, which is constantly monitored for improvement. The fuel has passed Tier I and II health effects testing, boasts robust production capacities, excited legislators nationwide to generate multiple bills encouraging biodiesel usage, and earned the attention of petroleum organizations. Does the petroleum industry still have reservations as to biodiesel's future? Of course, but through education they pursue the facts to resolve those concerns.

After recognizing biodiesel's milestones, where is the industry and what will it take to truly get it on the map? To make biodiesel a long-term business opportunity, attention must be shifted to several critical issues including ensuring the fuel meets ASTM standards, access to a pricing benchmark to increase buyer and seller confidence, and a breakthrough transportation mode to optimize nationwide distribution costs.

Petroleum organizations have additional areas of concern including a potential extension of the biodiesel blenders credit, the impact of renewable diesel, the complexities of the Renewable Identification Number tracking system, pump labeling and how best to conform with the demands of the renewable fuel standard. Amidst the noise of the petroleum grapevine, which often transfers recycled information, exists a silver lining-the facts. However, one must ask for assistance to secure the correct information.

The NBB has a clear vision for the national petroleum landscape and has created programs directed toward each element of the supply chain. Through grassroots educational seminars, webinars and panel participation at national conferences, the NBB has made educational material widely available for interested parties.

Try testing your biodiesel acumen by answering the "million dollar" question. According to the NBB, there are 165 plants nationwide with a production capacity of 1.85 billion gallons, and another 80 plants under development with a capacity of 1.38 billion gallons. With 245 plants touting a production capacity of 3.23 billion gallons to meet a projected 300 million to 400 million gallons of demand, where has all the biodiesel gone? Why is it not readily available everywhere? Why isn't it in your neighboring terminal or local fuel depot?

Before taking that next step into the exciting world of biodiesel, begin with the power of knowledge, which is clearly the most potent tool a petroleum organization has in its arsenal. Building an industry from the inside out starts with an informed you. For more information on NBB's petroleum outreach program, contact the the NBB at (800) 841-5849 or

Paul Nazzaro is president of Advanced Fuel Solutions Inc., which has served as the NBB's petroleum liaison since 1996. He is responsible for developing and implementing a far-reaching communications program that conveys biodiesel information to refiners, distributors, and pipeline and terminal operators. Reach Nazzaro at [email protected] or (978) 664-5923.
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