The 2016 National Biodiesel Conference and Expo took place this week, bringing together industry leaders and innovators from around the world.
“It has been a very interesting three days here. We ran into people from Israel, Canada, Australia, Austria — there are a lot of new people, new thoughts and new technology here this year to benefit and contribute to biodiesel,” said Jerry Bambauer, with the Ohio Soybean Association. “We have got to be proud of the National Biodiesel Board and the contributions they have made to agriculture and to our country. There are so many things we discovered here that will be good to take back to the state of Ohio.”
The NBB has plenty to celebrate moving into 2016.
“The industry feels like we are really positioned well for a great 2016. We had some major policy achievements at the end of 2015, including the extension of the biodiesel tax incentive and higher levels in the RFS volumes. We are excited for a great year,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of government affairs with NBB. “We have spent a lot of time educating politicians about the importance of biodiesel. We feel like we have broad bipartisan support all around the country and we are going to continue to work with our elected officials on the benefits of biodiesel. We have also done a lot of outreach on our technical side to auto manufacturers and now several states have volume requirements of 10% biodiesel blends or above. That really positions us for expanded growth in the biodiesel industry.”
And while the food versus fuel debate continues in some circles, the reality is that biodiesel complements the production of both food and fuel.
“Soybean oil is a co-product and when we grow enough protein from soybeans to feed the world, we get more fat than we can eat and that is what we use for making biodiesel,” said Don Scott, with NBB. “Fat is nature’s way of storing energy. The solar energy is concentrated in the fats and it works great for transportation fuel just like it does in our body. The human body requires a specific ratio of calories from fats, carbohydrates and proteins. We get a lot of our protein from meat but that protein all originally comes from plants. All of the plants we harvest for food have relatively small amounts of protein relative to the energy they store in carbohydrates and fat. When we grow enough protein to feed humans we get more fat and carbohydrates as a byproduct of that and it makes perfect sense to use that solar energy to displace fossil fuels.”
Roughly half of U.S. biodiesel is made from soybean oil, while the other 50% is made from several other feedstocks, including animal fats, recycled cooking oil, and other vegetable oils like canola.
“With biodiesel, we have developed a market for some of those waste products and turned them into something useful,” Scott said. “We set a record again in 2015 using just over 2 billion gallons of biodiesel across the country. Most of it is blended into diesel in 5% up to 25% blends. The engine manufacturers are supporting this blend and it works well in engines. It is made right here in the U.S from a variety of feedstocks and we can support 60,000 U.S. jobs and generate $17 billion in economic activity.”
According to NBB CEO Joe Jobe, the biodiesel numbers from 2015 “show without question that the Renewable Fuel Standard is delivering significant volumes of Advanced Biofuel to the American people.”
Jobe compared the biodiesel industry to an underdog in a fight.
“Last year the biodiesel industry demonstrated more than ever that no matter how beat up we are, no matter how outgunned we are, we don’t back down,” Jobe said. “We came together like never before. We stayed true to our principles in the face of deceitful attacks and we achieved the success necessary to put us back on track.”
In addition, the Vehicle Showcase at the event brought a welcome announcement that Peterbilt and Kenworth manufacturer, PACCAR Inc., now approves of B20 biodiesel in 100% of its vehicles, old and new. This announcement means that over 100,000 new trucks are joining the biodiesel ranks, traveling over 12 billion miles year round.