NBB Vice Chair See Challenges & Opportunities Ahead

John2008 Conference, Audio

National Biodiesel Board Vice Chairman Gary Haer says he is amazed at the turnout for this year’s National Biodiesel Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida. He says the thousands of attendees at the event seemed to be determined to take on the challenges that are ahead.

Haer, who is also a VP of Sales and Marketing for Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group, has a producer’s perspective on the biodiesel industry. I had the chance to chat with him for a few minutes about where he says the industry heading.

NBB conference 08First of all, he says there is a real void in the number of people who are trained to work with biodiesel. That’s why he was happy about this week’s announcement that the U.S. Department of Labor has joined with his company to come up with a curriculum to ramp up training and share Iowa’s industry expertise. Iowa Biofuels Training International (IBTI) is pairing up with educational institutions and biofuels producers with potential green collar workers. The programs are designed to train individuals for full-time ethanol and biodiesel laboratory, maintenance and operations positions.

Of course, the biggest issue facing the industry right now (and of course, the buzz around the conference) is the high cost of feedstocks. “We are faced right now with very high feedstock costs that are making profit margins compromised and sacrificed. It’s very difficult to find those opportunities for profitable sales today.”

He says the next 12 months will be very challenging, but he’s optimistic after that. “Then I think the market will make some adjustments. We’ll see some new feedstocks, new research that will level the playing field, and the market will sort those things out as we get into 2009,” Haer noted.

He adds that 2009 is when the Renewable Fuels Standard really gets going for biodiesel with a government standard of a billion gallons a year to be produced in the next few years.

You can all of my interview with Gary Haer by clicking here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/nbb/nbb-08-haer.mp3]