Agreeing to Disagree...Or Not.

Renewable fuel makers of all kinds need to band together, instead of bash each other, to get where we need to go.
By Anna Simet | October 30, 2015

I just got back from the National Advanced Biofuel Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, and as you can imagine, I’ve got a pile of work to catch up on.

It was a very good show. Fewer in attendance than previous years, for obvious reasons, but it was a concentrated group of folks, serious stakeholders focused on figuring out the industry’s state and its plan forward. If you’re in the renewable fuel industry, you likely know the renewable fuel standard (RFS) is an issue of major contention right now (leave it alone, versus opening it up for changes). Read a recap of a panel on that very subject here.

If one thing is clear, it is what NABCE keynote Todd Becker underscored: renewable fuel makers of all kinds need to band together, instead of bash each other, to get where we need to go.  Kicking the show off, Becker—CEO of ethanol producer Green Plains—delivered a thoughtful and inspiring speech about the journey to where his company is today, and provided a checklist of advice points for new companies working to get off of the ground. While Green Plains is a first-generation ethanol producer, that sector also started from square one to build up the empire that it is today, and there are a lot of parallels.

More than once, Becker expressed frustration surrounding the clash between some advanced biofuel producers and its representatives and the corn ethanol industry and its stakeholders. 

It’s expected that the RFS renewable volume obligation requirements will be out by the end of November, and it sounds like the numbers will be raised a little from the proposal. However, there will likely be a lawsuit from the ethanol industry regarding the U.S. EPA’s legal authority to lower the needle, a lawsuit from Big Oil, and a campaign from the Advanced Biofuels Association to change some aspects of the regulation. I asked almost everybody I approached at NABCE their thoughts on the RFS and the panel I referred to above, and I’ll just say that the mix of answers I received reiterated my impression that there is a whole lot of disagreement and different ideas as to what to do

In a Congress notorious for its lack of achievements and dysfunction, as well as having a general lack of interest in renewable fuels, it’s hard to predict what’s in store.

It was nice meeting those of you who joined us in Omaha and are continuing to ride out the storm.

Here’s to hoping that blue skies are somewhere ahead.