Eye on the Editor

Ron Kotrba, your editor of Biodiesel Magazine since 2009 who’s been writing for the publication since 2005, was recognized with NBB’s 2019 Influence Award. It seemed this was a good opportunity for his many readers to get to know more about him.
By Joe Jobe | March 29, 2019

Ron Kotrba, your editor of Biodiesel Magazine since 2009 who’s been writing for the publication since 2005, was recognized in January with the 2019 Influence Award by the National Biodiesel Board. This is a well-deserved acknowledgement of Kotrba’s significant contributions to the biodiesel industry, and I commend NBB for its selection of Kotrba out of hundreds of nominations.

Kotrba is an accomplished professional and also a gentleman who goes about his work with persistence, conscientiousness and great skill. That work has made Biodiesel Magazine an indispensable trade journal for the industry and certainly worthy of an Influence Award. But Kotrba himself has chosen to carry out his role mostly behind the scenes. I have known Kotrba for all of his years in the biodiesel industry and have come to greatly admire and respect the man and his work. So, it seemed that this was a good opportunity for his many readers to get to know more about him as well. 

For those who have been in the biodiesel industry for less than 10 years, you may not know or remember the origins of the Eye on Biodiesel Awards. They were inspired by the CBS evening news segment “Eye on America,” and we decided we could name all of the awards with the letter “I”—Influence, Impact, Inspiration, etc. Past recipients include Willie Nelson, Darryl Hannah, Neil Young, Melissa Etheridge, John Deere, and Ford. So, Kotrba is in distinguished company, including his fellow 2019 recipients. 

Not long after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, Kotrba began his career as an advanced engineering laboratory technician for an OEM exhaust supplier. He helped lead developmental work on diesel aftertreatment systems such as diesel particulate filters, urea SCR and lean NOx traps.

Kotrba started working for BBI International Jan. 5, 2005, as a staff writer for Biodiesel Magazine and Ethanol Producer Magazine. In 2007, BBI launched Biomass Magazine and the debut issue featured his cover story. Later in 2007, Kotrba became senior writer for all of BBI’s publications.

In 2009, during the Great Recession, he took over editorship of Biodiesel Magazine. “Those were very scary times for everyone, but the biodiesel industry took a disproportionate hit,” Kotrba said. “Vegetable oil prices had followed crude oil prices to record highs—72 cents per pound for soy oil and $147 a barrel (bbl) for West Texas Intermediate. Those high oil prices were a contributor to the economic collapse that sent oil prices below $30/bbl in a matter of months. The banking, real estate and automotive industries were teetering on complete failure. But in addition to suffering in this economic freefall with everyone else, biodiesel got hit with the European trade case, the delayed implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and the first lapsed tax credit. It was somewhat surreal.”

Kotrba’s career in the biodiesel industry was just getting warmed up at the same time that the industry was plunging headlong into a major wave of hardship. But he fought through all the challenges and his hard work and persistence paid off. The year 2011 emerged as a banner one for Kotrba, as he led the editorial direction of 26 print magazines (12 Biodiesel Magazine, 12 Biorefining magazine and two Algae Technology & Business) as well as helping to organize and attending a number of industry conferences.

Throughout its 15-year history from 2004 to today, Biodiesel Magazine with Kotrba at the helm experienced the same wave after wave of dramatic challenges and successes that the biodiesel industry went through. The industry was characterized during that time by astonishing growth and breathtaking victories followed by seemingly overwhelming challenges in “rinse and repeat” cycles that were enough to make your head spin. So too has been the turbulent path for Biodiesel Magazine during its lifespan. As the magazine enters the second half of its second decade in publication, I, for one, predict a more stable future for this print and online publication that has become a staple for our industry.

Kotrba has published thousands of articles over the past 14-plus years that touch on every aspect of biodiesel, ethanol, biomass and much more. He also manages Biodiesel Magazine’s U.S. & Canada Biodiesel Plant Map that has become a widely used resource. He has attended every National Biodiesel Conference & Expo for the past 14 years in a row.

Kotrba shared with me that one of the many highlights of his career was at the 2007 NBB Conference in San Antonio, Texas, when Merle Haggard performed a concert to launch the NBB political action committee. Kotrba is a lifelong fan of the country legend and was thrilled when Haggard took a question from him at a press briefing. “I was on cloud nine,” Kotrba said. “I sat and enjoyed the concert and couldn’t wipe the grin off my face the whole time.”

One of the things that distinguishes Kotrba as a journalist is his commitment to accuracy and the truth. His reporting is always relentlessly backed up by facts, and that gives him and his magazine an earned reputation for credibility.

“Through all the trials and tribulations, this industry has persevered as the perpetual underdog,” Kotrba told me. “People should not underestimate the doggedness of the men and women of this industry. They are fighters. And they are fighting the good fight—the right fight.” As the former CEO of the NBB for nearly 20 years, I’m proud to share some of those scars with Kotrba, and I’m glad that he is being recognized for the positive influence he has had—and will continue to have—on this industry.

Author: Joe Jobe
President and Founder, Rock House Advisors
[email protected]

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