Every once in a while, I run across an article or an interview where I hear some biodiesel producer, usually dressed for anything but working in a biodiesel plant, claiming “The Republicans” are hurting renewable energy, or supporting “Big Oil”, or whatever. The latest article I read claims that the Republicans are the cause for high fuel prices and biodiesel feedstock prices. This is nonsense, and really only serves to create a bigger division in our industry. We are too small to be a divided industry. We as an industry can barely produce enough biodiesel to even be on the radar of the liquid fuels industry. Ethanol is much more organized, and produces vastly larger quantities of fuel annually compared to biodiesel. We need more plants, producing more fuel, and tighter integration with the petroleum industry. Like it or not (and I didn’t for a long time), we are tied to the petroleum industry and biodiesel will be sold as a blended fuel. Maybe one day you will be able to find retail B100 at all fuel pumps, but not today. If we are going to get our fuel sold in commercial quantities, it will be through the existing petroleum infrastructure. Deal with it.
I’m also sick of hearing conservatives tell me that renewable fuels are for kooks and tree huggers, and that the economics don’t work without subsidies. I beg to differ. The petroleum industry gets $5 billion a year in subsidies. Fine. Take theirs away too, and I’ll be able to compete just fine, thank you.
I am registered as and tend to vote Republican, but that really has almost nothing to do with what I do for a living. I do not contribute to the campaign of any politician in either party. I’m also an environmentalist. I’m also an entrepreneur and see renewable fuels as a budding new market. I think that it only makes sense to produce fuels locally from waste products or margin crops, and then sell and consume them locally. That reduces resource waste, reduces logistics, and improves margins. It also reduces the amount of money we send to people in parts of the world that hate us and want to do us harm. No matter which side of the political fence you are on, how can that be bad?
I don’t see any fit for political issues in biodiesel. I see economic issues, environmental issues, and cultural issues in biodiesel, but not political issues. Pointing fingers at the opposing political party and screaming out loud on issues related to biodiesel just makes our industry look petty, unprofessional, and divided. Divided industries will not last very long. Get rid of the politics, and act like a business. Not only will your customers notice, so will other biodiesel plants and your vendors. Who knows, it could actually grow your business.