The National Biodiesel Board and its members are leaders in Sustainability. As NBB celebrates its 20th anniversary, we reflect on the sustainable decisions that created this billion-gallon industry, and we plan to bring even greater benefits to the economy and the environment as the biodiesel industry grows at a responsible pace.
Anti-biofuels rhetoric has been as fierce in 2012 as ever before with anti-biofuels media campaigns, calls for waivers of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and pushback caused by drought conditions in the US. Amidst the threat of biodiesel policy being undermined due to negative perceptions and fallout from other industries, biodiesel is prevailing because of NBB’s leadership in sustainability and initiatives to define our industry and the impacts we have on the environment and food prices.
Biodiesel is a success because it has real benefits like cleaner diesel exhaust emissions, lifecycle reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, added stability to the protein market, domestic energy security, and much more. These benefits are being recognized because of NBB’s strong emphasis on science, quantified analysis, and tackling challenges head-on. Most of all, biodiesel is a successful, billion-gallon industry, because of the responsible goal setting from industry leaders. These all combine to achieve establishment and implementation of successful public policy.
NBB continues to invest in research that proves our environmental benefit, such as continued work to improve the quantification of indirect land use change. Like it or not, indirect land use change is part of public policy for renewable fuels. The good news is, the more scientific thought and evidence that goes into modeling indirect land use change, the better results get for biodiesel. This will remain key to defending biodiesel’s GHG score and its rightful place in state and federal policy supporting advanced biofuels.
NBB showed leadership again in 2012 by fostering a discussion on the sustainability of transportation fuel. This discussion centered on the symposium held at the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo, but the impacts of the discussion continue among academic thought leaders and those within government agencies. NBB recruited an organizing committee from USDA and the US Department of Energy to host expert panelists speaking on the most critical issues facing transportation fuels. These experts included agronomists, ecologists, engineers, authors, economists and even a retired Admiral of the US Navy. Presenters were very frank about the severity of GHG issues and the fundamental unsustainability of importing oil from price-fixing cartels.
The good news is that biodiesel provides excellent alternatives for all of the problems facing conventional fuels. Instead of paying $1 billion dollars a day for imported oil, the US can add $7 billion to GDP and support over 70,000 jobs by using domestically-produced biodiesel. Instead of emitting 20 billion pounds of carbon dioxide to the air from fossil fuel, we can displace over a billion gallons of diesel fuel with biodiesel, which recycles carbon from plants and captures solar energy in a liquid form.
The rabid pushback against conventional biofuels is evidence that consumers are skeptical about GHG benefits and demand accountability for land use change impacts and potential negative consequences of intensified agriculture. That is why it is important to have credible institutions such as Purdue University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service continue to speak positively about biodiesel. NBB continues to share this information with environmentalists, students, and agency staff through webinars and online materials. Recognizing scientists for their good work and bringing them together to share information improves the measurement of biodiesel’s benefits. This has rippling effects though research, published literature, and government acceptance.
The biodiesel industry benefits from diversity in terms of feedstock, geography, and scales of production. The flexibility to use existing feedstocks, low-cost feedstocks, and potentially new breakthrough feedstocks mean that biodiesel production can thrive and grow responsibly without negative impacts on food prices, availability of lands, or environmental impact. NBB will need to continue supporting scientific analysis of biodiesel’s benefits and feedstock availability. Our model for success can lead us toward continued growth as we continue to define ourselves rather than letting detractors meld perception among consumers and policy makers.