Industry "metrics" on the rise

By Joseph Jobe | March 01, 2005
One source of entertainment among the staff at the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is to lampoon the endless string of overused buzzwords in business today (e.g., "thinking outside the box to facilitate synergistic paradigms"). The term "metrics" is a word in this category that we have high hopes may someday reach the status of "win-win" or "parking-lot issues." The term "metrics" is often used in the management of projects or programs to describe a measure of performance or a milestone. In an effort to help this promising term realize its true potential as a legitimate overused buzzword, I would like to highlight this concept in examining the challenges we face in the months and years ahead.

We were elated in February 2004 when 575 people showed up in Palm Springs, Calif., for the inaugural National Biodiesel Conference & Expo. The show was so well received that we were a little worried about how we would follow it in 2005. That question was answered last month when well over 1,000 participants gathered in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. This is an example of positive "metrics" for the biodiesel industry and portends tremendous growth for the future.

This year's conference rivaled, in number of attendees, a comparable conference in the ethanol industry, which is more than 100 times larger than the biodiesel industry. During one of the biodiesel conference sessions, a speaker asked how many people in the room were interested in getting involved in the production of biodiesel. By some guesses, more than 300 people raised their hands. In an industry with 20 production plants, that's an alarming amount of interest breaking into the business.

The new tax credit surely has generated much of the interest and enthusiasm about biodiesel production. We're about to enter an era of growth, and while we may experience growing pains, we certainly won't be the first to do so. Perhaps there are some historic parallels from which we could glean some valuable lessons from our brothers and sisters in the ethanol industry.

Immediately following the enactment of the first ethanol excise tax exemption in the late 1970s, there was a mad dash to build ethanol plants and get ethanol into the marketplace. Lack of expertise by some producers, and lack of an industry quality system, allowed low quality ethanol-and in some cases, methanol-to be sold as "gasohol." Consequently, in those early days, there were production and handling issues that hurt the reputation of ethanol's quality as a fuel. Although those issues have long been addressed, and the U.S. ethanol industry does a superb job of managing quality, it has taken them more than 20 years to overcome the reputation from some of those early experiences. Some negative memories still linger today.

This leads us to a popular subject for biodiesel lately: fuel quality and BQ-9000. Consistent fuel quality is a "metric" of the ethanol industry. In the biodiesel industry, BQ-9000 is the program that can earn us that "metric". It is a national quality assurance program developed to help biodiesel producers and marketers implement a system of ensuring that a high level of quality is maintained throughout the production and distribution stream. The program has just recently been optimized in a way that will streamline the administrative requirements and enhance its effectiveness. The program contains two available credentials: accredited producer and certified marketer. You can learn more about BQ-9000 at www.biodiesel.org/BQ9000.

Dedication to producing quality fuel transcends size and scale. Whether a company is producing 15,000 gallons or 15 mmgy of biodiesel, their commitment to making biodiesel available to the public that meets ASTM D-6751 should be the same. However, the size of their quality assurance resources may be different. This is because they have similar testing, development and registration costs to spread across less gallons of fuel. That is why the NBB Governing Board approved a plan last year that provides a special incentive for small producers to participate in BQ-9000. Small Producer Associate members of NBB can apply two years' worth of their dues toward registration costs associated with BQ-9000. It is very important that biodiesel producers and marketers of all sizes embrace this program as an investment in the future of our industry. It is good to talk about fuel quality, but now is the time for action. BQ-9000 is that action.

We must continue doing everything that we can to keep our industry "metrics" moving forward. Next year's conference will take place Feb. 5-8 in San Diego, Calif. I hope you will mark your calendar and join us in order to help achieve your own biodiesel metrics.

Joseph Jobe
National Biodiesel Board
Executive Director
 
 
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