California biofuel event showcases dynamics of evolving industry

By The California Advanced Biofuels Alliance | March 05, 2018

At the California Advanced Biofuels Conference March 1 in Sacramento, Jennifer Case, chair of California Advanced Biofuels Alliance, gave her annual address to a packed house that has evolved to include major industry players, both in and out of state. Case referenced the changing state and federal realities that keep the California industry from achieving stability, but circled back to the fundamentals that each year this annual conference reveals an industry that is passionate and continues to achieve steady growth.

As part of his presentation on the Low Carbon Fuel Standard’s 2018 amendments, Floyd Vergara, chief of California Air Resources Board’s Industrial Strategies Division, went out of his way to assure attendees that the state recognizes the need for biofuels, especially for the significant role they will continue to play in protecting the health of communities in need. A detailed discussion followed the presentation by Alexander “Lex” Mitchell, manager of CARB’s Emerging Technology Section, who reviewed the Alternative Diesel Fuel regulation’s new 2018 requirements. He revealed that CARB is planning to bifurcate the sunset provision of the regulation in the next version so that it applies separately to on- and off-road vehicles under the 2018 amendment.

Pointing to positive engagement toward the goal of changing the state’s underground storage tank (UST) regulations to reflect the U.S. EPA’s 2015 guidance requiring no materials compatibility documentation for blends up to B20, Steve Howell, president and founder of MARC-IV, gave an overview of some of the exhaustive work he has done to research and present the technical arguments to State Water Resources Control Board staff.

CABA lobbyist, Louie Brown, partner at Kahn, Soares, Conway LLP, discussed CABA’s main areas of focus: working with the biofuels coalition to protect the $25 million to the California Energy Commission for in-state production of biofuels in the governor’s budget; opposing Assembly Member Phil Ting’s AB 1745, which would prohibit the DMV from accepting an application for original registration of a vehicle unless it emits zero tailpipe emissions; and working with SWRCB staff on a new regulation that would treat blends up to B20 in USTs the same as petroleum diesel.

Starting with his belief that we are at crossroads where more jobs and cleaner air are accomplishable together, special speaker Rey Leon, mayor of Huron, said that the poverty in his town, which is located in the part of the San Joaquin Valley called the Appalachia of the West, has made him focus on identifying solutions. He talked about the importance of exploring what the agricultural sector can do to reduce pollution and end addiction to petroleum within the context of not just environmental justice, but economic justice.

State Sen. Henry Stern (D), the event’s keynote speaker, stressed his belief that California can achieve its climate goals through big, bold actions and added another policymaker voice to the day’s chorus calling biofuels necessary for that success. He thanked the group for taking the time to come to Sacramento and urged at least quarterly visits to legislators.

Joe Gershen, president of Encore BioRenewables, began the regional panel by reviewing the range of issues impacting the California market and ending with a focus on the need to solve the huge bottleneck caused by inadequate terminal storage and blending infrastructure. Tyson Keever, president and CEO of SeQuential, detailed the important progress being made in Oregon as its clean fuels and related programs expand. Jeff Haas of General Biodiesel discussed Washington’s long struggle to make progress and pointed to the light now visible through the tunnel due to new state democratic leadership. Fred J. Ghatala, director of carbon and sustainability with Advanced Biofuels Canada, surveyed the inspiring range of low carbon policies in the nation and provinces of Canada.

The tough subject of the role of biofuels in the face of AB 1745, which some are calling a ban on internal combustion engines, was discussed by a panel that included John Shears, research coordinator at the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies; Tim Olson, energy resources manager at CEC; and John Diener, president of Red Rock Ranch. A broad-ranging conversation included uncertainty about the fate of AB 1745; echoed agreement about the inimitable benefits and potential of biofuels, especially in displacing petroleum; and confirmed the need to redouble efforts to secure biofuels funding from the CEC.

The challenges of dealing with a “different” presidential administration were cited by Donnell Rehagen, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board, who stressed his group’s ongoing commitment to protecting the U.S. biodiesel market and the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, and extending the scope of the biodiesel tax credit beyond its current one-year (retroactive for 2017). He let attendees know about an important new effort to assess all 535 members of Congress for their stand on these issues in order to most effectively educate lawmakers and assist NBB members in lobbying efforts. 

Celia DuBose, outgoing executive director of the California Advanced Biofuels Alliance, was honored with an award from CABA and a climate leadership award from the NBB. Rebecca Baskins of Kahn, Soares and Conway was introduced as the new executive director.

CABA wishes to thank sponsors of its seventh annual conference for their generous support: Partner Sponsors—NBB (Gold), Argus, Baker, EcoEngineers (Silver), Act, Evonik, The Jacobsen (Bronze); Conference sponsors—NBB, REG (Gold), Crimson, (Silver), Biodico, Chemol (Bronze).


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