The 2019 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo lifted off Tuesday in San Diego with inspirational remarks from industry leadership.
Acknowledging 2019 as the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing, National Biodiesel Board CEO Donnell Rehagen drew comparisons between the tenacity of the space program and U.S. biodiesel producers’ own efforts to get the first commercially available advanced biofuel industry off the ground. He pointed to Coachella-based Imperial Western Products and manager Curtis Wright as one of the many pioneers of the industry, explaining they had to overcome many obstacles in launching their new biodiesel product line at the turn of the century.
“There were times they wanted to give up,” Rehagen said. “There were days when it seemed like nothing at the plant worked correctly.” Today, the plant produces 10.5 million gallons of biodiesel annually and provides a significant amount of the diversified company’s profits, he said.
Early biodiesel explorers faced their own challenges in creating an entirely new fuel, from sustainable resources, to power heavy-duty vehicles, cars, boats and heat American homes, he said.
“Just like with the race to the moon, I am sure there were times throughout the research and development phase, where it would have been perfectly understandable for the leaders to say, ‘this can’t be done,’ ‘this is not happening as fast as we want,’ ‘this is costing us too much,’” Rehagen said.
The biodiesel industry, like the explorers of America’s space program, benefited from clear direction from our political leaders that is necessary in fostering new endeavors.
Federal policies such as the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires minimum volumes of biodiesel and other renewable fuels be blended into the national fuel supply, and California’s own Low Carbon Fuel Standard have proven to be effective stimulators of U.S. markets. Today, the industry produces nearly three billion gallons annually and supports more than 60,000 jobs across the country. The LCFS is expected to make California alone a billion-gallon market for biodiesel in the coming years.
This is the fifth time the conference has been hosted in the Golden State and the third time in San Diego, noting the significance of the California renewable fuels market. The inaugural National Biodiesel Conference was launched in Palm Springs in 2004 and the event was held once in San Francisco.
Listen to Rehagen’s conference address here:
NBB19 Opening Remarks from National Biodiesel Board CEO Donnell Rehagen
Photos from the conference are being updated each day.
2019 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album