By Ron Kotrba | May 20, 2011

The leaders of seven renewable energy industry trade groups lined the stage at the general session of BBI’s International Biomass Conference & Expo in early May in downtown St. Louis.

The seven panelists were Mary Rosenthal, executive director of the Algal Biomass Organization; Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board; Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association; Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association; Charlie Neibling, chairman of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council; Robert Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association; and Norm McDonald, chair of external affairs for the American Biogas Council.

The gathering of these individuals together all under one roof to discuss policy, energy, markets and the futures of their respective industries was truly impressive. I couldn’t help but think, 50 years into the future when a majority of our energy will (we hope) come from renewable sources, that these seven individuals—and their constituency—could be thanked. It was almost historic, or at least it felt that way to me.

Biorefining Magazine Associate Editor Erin Voegele was on scene to capture the discussion and provides us with a feature article, “Gateway to Cooperation and Parity,” on page 32 of this issue. Voegele writes, “St. Louis is not only the Gateway to the West, it also acted as the gateway to the future of the biomass industry in May as nearly 1,400 professionals representing all aspects of the sector descended upon the city’s America’s Center to network, conduct business and learn about recent technological and agronomic breakthroughs. A highlight of the event was the Tuesday morning plenary session, titled Association Executive Roundtable: Our Industry in a Changed Political Landscape.  … While different segments of the biomass industry have, at times, unintentionally worked against rather than with each other, the tide seems to be shifting.”

This changing tide is evidenced by recent cooperation between organizations such as the Advanced Biofuels Association, National Biodiesel Board, the Algal Biomass Organization, the Renewable Fuels Association and BIO, on areas of common policy and objectives.