What a Year

By Ron Kotrba | November 21, 2011

This year began on a high note as many biofuel tax provisions that had either already expired, i.e., the $1 per gallon biodiesel and renewable diesel blender credits, or were set to expire at the end of 2010, had just been renewed—although with little expectation of being renewed again. Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, alluded to the need for more collaboration among the various biofuel trade associations in his January column, and foreshadowed political difficulties we would face in the coming 12 months. “Our industry’s enhanced efforts to work more closely together over the past six months must continue, with an even clearer focus on how to sustain current first-generation fuels while building the necessary public policy to expedite the deployment of second-generation advanced biofuels,” McAdams wrote. “We will return to a new Congress in 2011 with a quarter of the entire House being freshman members. This will require an extensive and compelling education effort on behalf of the biofuels industry. The political fights that we witnessed over the past six months on tax policy will not go away. They will be renewed afresh and a new policy discussion will begin. The biofuels industry will need to be ready to engage as a collective force once again, as we will be faced with the last year of the tax provisions, again.”

In that same January issue, Associate Editor Erin Voegele authored a feature article titled, “Searching for Unity,” a story about the multitude of trade associations representing the various segments of biofuels, and how a more unified voice to Congress might benefit the industries. Just months later, the heads of seven renewable fuel trade associations dawned the stage of the 2011 International Biomass Conference & Expo and discussed, among other topics, how they can continue working together. As the year progressed, the runaway debt and deficit situation came to a head; and the political appetite toward helping fund our national interests in terms of providing advanced biofuels a hand up—not a hand out—switched from diet mode to one of fasting.

Despite these setbacks, however, advanced biofuels have never seen a more productive year of achievements and milestones. Tons of concrete and steel have been installed for pilot, demonstration and industrial-scale facilities, helping give commercial shape to years of research and development. A proliferation of joint ventures made this year between big, and not so big, companies gives us a glimpse of what next year will hold. Markets such as that of biojet fuel continue to expand with every additional commercial flight crossing the skies. And speaking of commercial biojet flights, check out McAdams’ column on page 6 as he gives a 30,000-foot view of biojet’s progress—literally. He was a passenger on the November Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Washington, D.C.

Author: Ron Kotrba
Editor, Biorefining Magazine