The Noble Fight

From the Summer 2017 print edition of Biodiesel Magazine, editor Ron Kotrba writes in his editor's note that, even though the year started out rougher than many had hoped, there is a very good chance the year will end stronger than it began.
By Ron Kotrba | August 11, 2017

So many changes have taken place in the U.S. biodiesel industry over the past six months, but this constant flux is nothing new. It seems as if the moment one realizes the market has stabilized, it is bound for destabilization. Conversely, once market conditions appear to be at their worst, improvements become apparent. After Trump won the presidential election in November, speculation ran rampant on how this would affect the biodiesel markets, which made stellar recoveries in 2016 after two very bad years. With Trump’s mixed message of support for the Renewable Fuel Standard juxtaposed with a new administration stacked with friends of Big Oil, uncertainty reigned once again. The lapsed biodiesel tax credit, the fifth expiration in its relatively short life, and talk of massive federal tax reform only fueled the fire of doubt. Meanwhile, low-cost imports have been eating into the domestic market share.

As spring emerged, petitions were filed with federal agencies seeking duties on imports from Argentina and Indonesia, and while the outcome of those trade cases are yet uncertain, the preliminary evidence seems favorable for U.S. producers. However, before domestic producers had time to get too excited, the first RFS proposal under the Trump administration was released and sought a modest decrease in advanced biofuels in 2018 and to flatline biomass-based diesel in 2019 at 2.1 billion gallons—not the fresh start needed to reinvigorate an unsure market.

Even though 2017 has started out rougher than many had hoped, there is a very good chance the year will end stronger than it started. Bills have been introduced in Congress to both reinstate the tax credit as a reformed domestic producers credit as well as a blenders credit. The U.S. Court of Appeals made a finding that the U.S. EPA misused its waiver authority to reduce renewable fuel volumes in its 2014-’16 RFS final rule, which bodes well for future installments. Biodiesel advocates are rallying in the RFS comment period once again to demonstrate why EPA should increase its advanced biofuels and biomass-based diesel volumes in the final rule compared to its weak proposal. The trade cases will soon come to a conclusion. And in state policy news, the commissioners in charge of Minnesota’s biodiesel mandate determined that, despite claims of inadequate blending infrastructure, the jump from B10 to B20 in the summer months will go into effect as planned May 1, 2018, once again making biodiesel history in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Finally, the companies we showcase in our Spotlight feature on page 14, “Here to Serve the Biodiesel Industry,” have ridden the ups and downs of this market over the years and have not wavered in their commitment to this sector. Their perseverance is evident and their market share will be rewarded as a result. Thank you for your continued support for this energy movement that history will show is on the winning side of a noble fight.

Author: Ron Kotrba
Biodiesel Magazine
[email protected]

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