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NBB In Sight

East-bound and down: load it up and truck it
By Joe Jobe | November 20, 2007
Growing up as a child of the '70s, I heard songs about truckers-especially Jerry Reed's "East-Bound and Down," which portrays a long-haul run that faces almost impossible odds-that still inspire me. Each year, the biodiesel industry faces new and distinct challenges that seem to give us almost impossible odds. 2007 was no exception. Present and forecasted demand for biodiesel has contributed in part to high feedstock prices, a pain felt by nearly every biodiesel producer.

High feedstock price is something we all saw coming. In fact, at February's National Biodiesel Conference and Expo, I gave a stark speech outlining the challenges that our industry faces. Since the conference was in San Antonio, I compared it to the seemingly impossible task of defending the Alamo. I noted that our industry was overheating and struggling financially with feedstock prices, and that market trends indicated it might not get better. Indeed, that is what happened.

The National Biodiesel Board recognizes that despite all the growth we've seen, these are difficult times for biodiesel producers. We wish that every year would be prosperous for all companies. As your national trade association, we are doing everything in our power to build a solid axle for the viability of the industry over the long haul. We continue to build that axle by creating strong policy, overcoming technical barriers and increasing education.

On the feedstock front, while there is little a trade association can legally do to affect prices, we can lay groundwork to help mitigate the suffering felt by biodiesel producers. We're doing that in the near term through achieving our state and federal public policy agenda, which is directly funded by NBB biodiesel producer dues. We're also taking a longer-term approach through our feedstock development program. We've implemented a three-year, $1.4 million program to:

Conduct a comprehensive review of biodiesel feedstocks and identify barriers to growth
Complete a research program at the Danforth Plant Science Institute to increase oil content of oilseeds
Provide seed money for the Center for Evergreen Energy, a biofuel think tank to advocate investment in feedstock development.

An ever-changing industry needs a flexible trade association. That's why, in 2007, NBB adopted a new board structure to help ensure our ability to speak with one voice. The new structure streamlines and clarifies NBB's membership categories, guarantees more biodiesel producers seats on the governing board and envisions an increasing proportion of biodiesel producer-leaders over time. This year, our elected leaders also gathered to plan for the future. The executive committee reviewed and updated the organization's strategic plan, which provides strong direction to the staff regarding project areas. This strategic plan is a living, breathing document which evolves from the organization's mission and vision statements.

Despite the roadblocks the industry faces, 2007 brought major achievements culminating from years of hard work. These accomplishments will help make biodiesel more economically viable. The NBB is proud to represent this industry and lead the positive changes that we've seen in 2007.

To borrow some inspiration from Jerry Reed, "We're gonna do what they say can't be done, we've got a long way to go and a short time to get there, We're east bound, just watch ol' 'biodiesel' run."

Joe Jobe
NBB CEO
 

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