The National Biodiesel Conference & Expo opens today at the Fort Worth Convention Center and offers a vehicle showcase and ride-and-drive opportunity alongside demonstrations and presentations on the latest in the industry.
And this year’s conference takes on special significance as the title sponsor, the National Biodiesel Board, celebrates 25 years.
“For the visionaries who launched what would become the National Biodiesel Board in 1992, we want to say ‘thank you,’” said NBB CEO Donnell Rehagan. “We look forward to taking this opportunity to reflect on those first 25 years, but we are also excited to launch into the next era of growth for America’s Advanced Biofuel.”
Following a University of Missouri study that demonstrated biodiesel had potential as a diesel fuel replacement, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council created the National SoyDiesel Development Board in 1992. Sensing the opportunity to utilize the vast surplus of soybean oil collected each year, while also expanding energy security and environmental benefits, other state soybean associations quickly joined the effort. The new association changed its name to the National Biodiesel Board in 1994 to reflect the diversity of fats and oils that can be made into biodiesel.
In the early days, NBB spearheaded diesel engine research and emissions testing to demonstrate biodiesel’s environmental benefits, leading to official specifications for the fuel used in diesel cars and trucks today and earning the reputation as America’s first commercially produced advanced biofuel. The producers then were primarily a collection of small businesses serving their communities, distributing a few hundred million gallons of biodiesel by the turn of the century.
Today, with support from a bipartisan strategy to bring transportation fuel options into the mainstream through implementation of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and a tax incentive to spur growth, the advanced biofuel has blossomed into a nearly 3 billion gallon per year industry. A renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines without modification, biodiesel is now produced in every corner of the country made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats. As biodiesel has grown over the last 25 years, it has stayed true to its local roots. The more than 64,000 jobs the industry supports are often the highest paying in many rural areas. To be called biodiesel, the fuel must meet the strict quality specifications of ASTM D6751.
“Biodiesel is an American success story,” said Rehagen. “We have overcome countless challenges, and we will undoubtedly face many more as we continue to grow the industry. But for everyone who has pulled together for the past 25 years to make our success a reality, this conference is a great time to celebrate."
A celebration of the 25th anniversary will be front and center when conference organizers pull back the curtains on the main stage -- constructed in an even larger Expo Hall for the first time this year -- to open the festivities on Tuesday morning.
And the conference isn’t just for industry insiders. The public is invited Tuesday to join in the discussions focused on biodiesel technology, public policy and more. They will also have the opportunity to explore the event’s Expo Hall, where they can learn all about how biodiesel is made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats. A Texas driver’s license is required for local residents to attend free of charge. Wednesday, the public is invited back to participate in a “ride-and-drive” with vehicles provided by area dealers and equipped with the latest diesel engines.
Other highlights for attendees include a session with the filmmakers who premiered “Hot Grease” at the prestigious DOC NYC film festival before its debut on the Discovery Channel last November. The feature length documentary tells the story of biodiesel’s rise and the industry fight for survival in the face of numerous public policy challenges. The producers spent countless hours documenting the experiences of biodiesel entrepreneurs in Texas, while advocates in Washington, D.C., come together to protect the industry from a barrage of attacks from opponents more interested in protecting the status quo.
The National Biodiesel Conference & Expo takes place January 22 - 25 at the Fort Worth Convention Center. To learn more about the conference, including a full schedule of events and information on how to register click here.