2009 Letters From Leadership

By | February 10, 2009
It is my honor to serve the industry for another year as chairman of the National Biodiesel Board. Although every year brings its own challenges to the industry, 2008 was especially trying for us all. The struggles we face mirror what many Americans are facing-tough economic conditions, severe cutbacks and uncertainty for the future. Like so many others, our industry is gasping for air even as biodiesel holds great promise in helping the country break free from the very undertow that holds us back. We create jobs. We create domestic demand. We stimulate growth in energy, the lifeblood of our nation.

To add to the economic challenges, we found ourselves forced to take a defensive posture. We've invested significant resources to defend the U.S. biodiesel industry against European trade complaints, while opponents of biodiesel seek to raise doubt among consumers and policymakers by falsely accusing the renewable fuel of being unsustainable.

While science does not support the accusations, opponents of biofuels are still spending millions of dollars on negative campaigns to convince the public otherwise. The misinformation has permeated common beliefs and severely threatens the well-being of the biodiesel industry. The NBB recognized these threats in 2008 and began taking steps to combat them, seeking funding and launching new initiatives, including a Sustainability Task Force. We've launched www.BiodieselSustainability.com, a Web site to get the facts out on biodiesel's environmental benefits and its role in the food chain. We've held high-level editorial board meetings, and had placements in publications such as Time and USA Today since the unfounded attacks on biodiesel began. We are also engaging social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook and others, which have become powerful tools in
shaping public perception. We anticipate great strides in fiscal year 2009 to combat faulty science and misinformation, but recovering from such blows will be a long, uphill battle.

Those efforts must continue in fiscal year 2010.

2008 brought accomplishments on the technical front, such as ASTM's passage of new specifications, including a B6 to B20 spec, which will open doors for biodiesel through greater original equipment manufacturer acceptance. In federal legislation, the blenders tax incentive was extended through December 2009, an expanded renewable fuels standard was passed, and the renewable diesel tax incentive was corrected so that only operations adding new refining capacity qualify, just to name a few.

We have also made great strides in feedstock development through the fiscal year 2009 program. We worked with the Danforth Plant Science Center and the Center for Evergreen Energy in St. Louis to host a biodiesel feedstock symposium. The event gathered experts to provide input for expanding feedstock supplies.

Our world-class team of professionals with diverse skills has not achieved these wins on its own. These victories are also the result of efforts by NBB members. Active members provide valuable input, support and action in all program areas. An engaged industry is powerful indeed.

Ed Hegland
NBB Chairman

2009 marks my 10-year anniversary serving the NBB. Never in my nearly two decades of biodiesel business have we had a more challenging time. I know our members face enormous challenges and will be transitioning to respond to industry adjustments, including the production demands of the biodiesel renewable fuels standard. Despite these changes in our industry, our members have voted to substantially reduce producer dues by approximately 25 percent. This vote results in dues reductions for every producer-member.

With new opportunities ahead, we continue to work for and with our members to set the course for the NBB in fiscal year 2010. Thank you to each of you who have participated in our intensive fiscal year 2010 prioritization process. We have held committee meetings, led a membership survey and hosted a member webinar. The process of finalizing priorities helps direct staff on industry priorities, and the allocation of financial resources to break down our industry's barriers. NBB programs have been critical for our industry's federal policy and technical achievements. It has helped nurture the growth of state biodiesel legislation. More than 600 biodiesel bills were introduced in 2008, compared with 300 in 2007.

Also, the petroleum outreach program launched www.BioheatOnline.com which gives dealers and consumers the tools to market Bioheat fuel and realize its benefits. It is also helping us work toward turning the tide of public perception on the food-versus-fuel debate and other misinformation campaigns.

Part of the effort to overcome barriers began after the NBB created a Sustainability Task Force, which has been extremely active. It has been successful in fostering discussions and forming outside partnerships to ensure our industry stays on a sustainable path. This group developed important sustainability guidelines for the biodiesel industry to follow. Don Scott, an environmental engineer, is leading this group and coordinating industry efforts through a newly created director of sustainability position. Once again, feedstock-neutral support from soybean checkoff benefactors has increased in a meaningful way, leveraging our member dollars while answering the call to fend off attacks on the biodiesel industry and farmers. Agricultural producers continue to use their significant public policy influence to support biodiesel legislative priorities. Also, the contributions of the fats and protein organizations, which supply larger-than-ever feedstock volumes, have become active, critical partners.

This year, we hope to see the blenders tax incentive extended past 2009; a resolution to the European Union trade case; positive movement of biodiesel in low-carbon policy, which is becoming "the issue" of our time, with many state legislatures taking the lead over the federal government in developing low-carbon fuel standards; better science applied to indirect land-use change modeling; and public acceptance of biodiesel as a sustainable fuel. We expect an increase in domestic demand for and consumption of biodiesel that will serve as a catalyst for integration in more market segments, such as home heating oil. These are no small tasks, but thanks to the work of members setting our priorities at the beginning of the year, we will have a path to follow for continued success.

Gary Haer
NBB Vice Chairman
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