A New Normal

Biodiesel Magazine’s editor in chief Ron Kotrba discusses in his editor’s note how life changed for us all in a matter of weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic as he worked to complete the contents of the Spring 2020 print issue.
By Ron Kotrba | April 14, 2020

In March, as I wrapped up the contents for this issue after interviewing sources over the past few months for articles in this edition, the coronavirus pandemic changed all our lives in a matter of weeks. I was in North Carolina mid-March helping my parents after my stepdad had major surgery. Thankfully, he is recovering well and is now out of the hospital, but during those nine days life in America changed, and we witnessed it hour by hour on the news, through hospital visitation policy, and just trying to buy items at the store. It was unsettling being away from my home in Minnesota during all of this, especially knowing I had to be on a plane to get back there. But with family was where I needed to be, and I wouldn’t have changed that for anything.

As we all adjust to a new normal—for how long that will be no one really knows—the events of the day may have effects felt for years to come. But the short-term effects are unnerving and anxiety-producing: plunging stock markets; skyrocketing unemployment; shelter-in-place requirements; an oil feud between Russia and OPEC coupled with reduced demand for liquid fuels, sending crude oil and refined petroleum product prices on a downward spiral; healthcare systems on the brink of overload; and existential concerns about our own and our loved ones’ health. Questions flood the mind, ones as important as whether my elderly parents will get infected and, if they do, will they survive, to the ridiculousness of wondering whether I will be able to buy more toilet paper when the need arises.

I hope each and every one my friends, acquaintances, colleagues and associates in this important, top-notch energy sector are doing as well as they can, and I wish safety, good health and peace of mind upon all of you during this unprecedented time. The most important thing is our health and well-being. If we practice physical distancing and follow guidelines from the authorities, as tough as this might be, we can sacrifice a little time, short-term inconvenience and a slow economy for our long-term health, prosperity and security.

How all this shakes out will be known soon enough. But with retroactive tax credit refunds  and government assistance from the $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law at press time, I look forward to a speedy industry recovery so you all can do what you do best—crank out billions of high-quality gallons to help clean the air, curb climate change and keep local communities employed, engaged and inspired. This industry has seen tough times before, some could argue there’s been more bad times than good, and the resilience of biodiesel producers is unmatched.

Perhaps this is politically insensitive for me to say, but with all the biodiesel sector has faced over the years—incessant attacks from Big Oil, inconsistent government support, the financial crisis of 2008 and a prolonged recession, a seriously delayed implementation of RFS, RIN and tax fraud, overcoming crippling fuel quality issues, multifaceted trade wars, food vs. fuel, and attacks from misguided environmentalists questioning the sustainability and carbon intensity of your product—it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than a viral pandemic, slow economy and low oil prices to keep you down.

I encourage you, whether we know each other or not, to drop me a line or send me an email just to say “hi,” or to let me know how you’re doing through this. I truly want to hear from my biodiesel friends, now more than ever. Until next time, be safe.

Author: Ron Kotrba
Editor in Chief, Biodiesel Magazine
[email protected]

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