The US biodiesel industry responds to election results

Biodiesel Magazine speaks with producers and associations to find out their take on yesterday's election results
By Ron Kotrba | November 07, 2012

As this election season drew on, a reoccurring question I asked myself was for whom will voters that make a living in the renewable energy sector, particularly in biodiesel, cast their presidential ballots? When looking at Gov. Mitt Romney’s positions, and those of his advisory team, it became pretty clear to me that Romney’s team would do less to support renewable energy and do more to promote oil and gas.

But voters are complex beings; they hold religious, social and economic beliefs and positions that do not always mesh with what might be best for the given industry in which they find themselves. For instance, how would a single mother who is a devout Catholic and pro-life but anti-guns running a small biodiesel business vote? Does she vote for the candidate who will more likely support the biodiesel industry but who may not be viewed as the candidate to support small private enterprise or her religious beliefs?

My point here is that these issues, and voting trends, are not as black and white as perhaps we may think initially. Nevertheless, the biodiesel industry is responding to the election, mostly in favorable terms.

The National Biodiesel Board’s Vice President of Federal Affairs, Anne Steckel, congratulates President Obama and all of the winners in yesterday’s elections. “We were particularly pleased to hear President Obama mention breaking our dependence on foreign oil as a continued priority in his second term,” Steckel says. “We believe his support for renewable energy sources such as biodiesel clearly played a role in the campaign’s success, particularly in states like Iowa and Colorado. Looking forward, while there will be many new faces, we will still have a Republican majority in the House and Democratic majority in the Senate. We expect it will be difficult to move legislation through Congress, so we will continue working to build support on both sides of the aisle. Our goal will continue to be demonstrating to Democrats and Republicans alike that the biodiesel industry is creating real jobs and real environmental benefits, and that we need greater energy security through increased domestic production of alternative fuels.”

From the key presidential battleground state of Ohio, Raj Mosali, president of Jatrodiesel, a biodiesel producer and technology provider, tells Biodiesel Magazine that he believes the outcome is good for biodiesel. “To begin with, not knowing where Gov. Romney stood in terms of alternative fuels—especially biodiesel—and knowing President Obama pushed it at every instance, it was fairly clear.” He says, even though Ohio does not have any incentives in place to encourage the use of biodiesel, “We are excited about the future prospects of biodiesel since there won’t be any major changes to the path that’s already laid out nationally with RFS2.”

On the outcome of the election, the nation’s largest biodiesel producer, Renewable Energy Group, also had encouraging words about the outcome, despite the company’s third-quarter earnings release that indicated the company’s risk management positions and the devalued RIN caused a $2.3 million loss in adjusted EBITDA for the quarter.  “The president has proven himself to be a strong advocate for biofuels, and we are confident he will continue to support our industry in his second term,” says Daniel J. Oh, REG president and CEO.  “We look forward to carrying on our work with the Obama administration, Congressional leadership from both parties, and state lawmakers to show that RFS2 is working and deserves to grow.” Oh adds that renewable fuels, and the biodiesel industry in particular, have earned bipartisan support from state and federal lawmakers because it creates jobs in rural America, it supports local economies and strengthens the U.S.’ food and energy security. “REG has worked, and will continue to work, diligently with legislators from both parties who will help us deliver more American-grown, American-made renewable fuel to consumers across the country and beyond our borders,” Oh says.  

While many in the industry are elated with the election results, Andrew Davison of Cape Cod BioFuels in Sandwich, Mass., is less optimistic. “As a small business owner, I’m worried,” he tells Biodiesel Magazine, “but as a renewable fuel producer, I don’t know that it will change anything. Here we are we went all year without the tax credit, RINs are in the toilet and plants are idling all over the country…” He says despite those issues, provided the RIN integrity issues are solved and RIN values increase again, the boosted biomass-based diesel mandate for 2013 should be helpful to the industry—and to his business.  He mentions that if the largest biodiesel producer in the nation, REG, is posting losses this quarter—despite the fact that they’ve got hundreds of millions of gallons of production capacity—then imagine how small producers, who are taking discounts for their RINs if they can sell them at all right now, are doing.

Across the country, in Temecula, Calif., community-scale producer Promethean Biofuels founder and managing principal, Todd Hill, sees things a bit differently. “Obama’s re-election win from an industry perspective is tremendously beneficial in that Obama clearly supports green energy, and more of it,” Hill tells Biodiesel Magazine. “That includes biodiesel specifically, and biofuels in general, which the President has clearly articulated are essential components of America’s job creation strategy and approach to reducing our dependence on foreign petroleum sources.” While Hill’s comments on the presidential election are positive, he noted challenges that lie ahead. “The challenge is that the House and Senate can easily continue to pursue the course of the last four years,  exemplifying  to the point of caricature the inability of our elected leaders to fulfill their promise to work together to solve the existential threats to our great nation’s stability,” Hill says. “Only time will tell, but just as wind and solar utilization have doubled over the past four years, the potential to have a set of policies in place that stabilize our beleaguered industry at the end of the next four years is more likely—albeit extremely uncertain—than I believe would be the case under Mitt Romney.”

And in the heart of it all, Iowa, a biodiesel-producing beacon of a state, Randy Olson, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, congratulates the president for his victory; a campaign that the political pundits are saying will be studied for years for its successful late-stage rally in key battleground states and counties.

“Congratulations to Barack Obama and his Administration, who have kept their promise of moving America’s domestic energy industry forward by taking specific actions to support smart growth in biodiesel production,” Olson says. “The Obama administration’s finalization of an Environmental Protection Agency recommendation to increase biodiesel volumes in 2013 under the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS2) will help ensure this advanced biofuel continues to thrive in 2013. Encouraging production of American-made fuel brings economic development and energy security—two of our nation’s top priorities. As the nation's leading biodiesel producer, Iowa stands to gain more jobs and economic growth with the administration’s continued support of biodiesel as an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy. Common sense energy policy will create and support green manufacturing jobs at Iowa’s 13 biodiesel plants instead of sending money overseas for oil. It will also enhance the rural economy by supporting Iowa farmers. This includes livestock farmers, because demand created for soybean oil has the positive effect of lowering meal prices from what they otherwise would be. Our state’s producers stand ready to continue the country’s vital quest for domestic energy independence, and we look forward to four more years of growth with the president’s support.”  

If you are reading this blog, you likely have a connection to the biodiesel industry or the broader renewable energy sector. We here at Biodiesel Magazine would like to hear your thoughts on the outcome of the election. Please post your comments below, we would love to hear from you. 


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