Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition (TBCCC)
Tampa Bay Hosts 13th Annual National Biodiesel Conference & Expo
TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 10, 2016) – Biodiesel industry professionals, fleet managers, and policy experts gathered at the Tampa Convention Center from January 25-28 for this year's National Biodiesel Conference. Coordinator Stephen Reich, of the Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition (TBCCC), and Clean Cities coordinators from coalitions around the U.S. were among the more than 1,000 biodiesel industry leaders and advocates who attended the four-day conference.
"We are very fortunate to have had the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo right here in the center of the Tampa Bay region," said Reich. "The sessions and presentations were outstanding and of extremely high quality. I am hopeful that those that attended from the Tampa region have better understanding of the benefits of biodiesel and that it will lead to an increased popularity of this alternative fuel in our area."
In addition to presentations from biodiesel industry and policy experts, researchers, and students, the conference featured an expo hall, renewable fuels policy panel discussion, awards recognizing market and research contributions, a ride-and-drive event, and a vehicle showcase.
National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe opened the first general session with remarks on the state of the biodiesel industry. This year's conference theme was "Coast to Coast," reflecting the diversity of biofuels. Jobe recapped some of the major industry news, and shared his optimistic outlook for the growth potential of the biofuels industry in 2016.
"We just came through a two-and-a-half-year period of very difficult struggle because of the EPA's delay in issuing the rule-making on the Renewable Fuel Standard, said Jobe. "We're positioned to break a record again in 2016."
Jobe noted challenges for the upcoming year, and emphasized the significance of the biodiesel industry in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting carbon reduction goals.
Other conference sessions addressed important industry and research issues such as policy implications of the RFS, the role of biodiesel in carbon economics, market considerations, and a discussion on biodiesel tax incentives. Speakers highlighted the need to get more biodiesel in the national fuel supply and promoted the benefits of renewable energy.
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established volume requirements in transportation fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for calendar years 2014, 2015, and 2016 for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. The EPA now requires more than 18 billion gallons of renewable fuels and at least 2 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel for 2016, which marks a modest increase from 2015 requirements. To learn more about the RFS, visit http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/RFS.html.
The finalization of RFS was a common thread in many of the presentations and break-out sessions, and this standard has become one of the defining policy mechanisms to drive industry growth. Anne Steckel, Vice President of Federal Affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, said the higher volumes under RFS are encouraging: "I am proud to say that a 2 billion gallon standard moving forward is a long way away from the original RFS that flat-lined biodiesel at 1.28 billion gallons."
Another topic in the spotlight was the push for a producer's tax credit for biodiesel. The current blender's tax credit applies to biodiesel produced overseas and blended with U.S. diesel, which has caused an increase in imports in recent years. Implementing a producer's tax credit encourages domestic supply production and strengthens energy security. To learn more about the tax credit, visit http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/10515.
One of the most popular events during the conference was the panel session featuring former Congressional representatives. Former Congressman Bob Inglis (R-South Carolina), former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), and former Congressman Kenny Hulshof (R-Missouri) discussed renewable fuels policy, including support for the RFS and a producer's tax credit.
The Biodiesel Vehicle Showcase, held in the Expo Hall, featured several automakers and their latest biodiesel-capable vehicles and technologies. University of South Florida (USF) professor Dr. Aydin K. Sunol presented on the USF renewable biodiesel initiative and showcased the USF Bull Runner bus, which uses a B20 fuel blend to power the university's shuttle service.
Dr. George Philippidis, USF associate professor and TBCCC Steering Committee member, also spoke on the biodiesel initiative collaboration between the Colleges of Sustainability and Engineering.
"USF is a leader in sustainability research, education, and practices in a major effort to help our community reduce its carbon footprint," said Dr. Philippidis. "Part of this effort is our biodiesel project, a joint venture between the Colleges of Sustainability and Engineering, where USF students develop an innovative technology to cost-effectively convert waste cooking oil generated on campus to valuable biodiesel that can fuel the university's Bull Runner buses."
This initiative is funded by the USF Student Green Energy Fund, which supports projects that promote energy conservation, greenhouse gas reduction, and renewable energy technologies on the university campus. To learn more about the Green Energy Fund, visit http://www.usf.edu/student-affairs/green-energy-fund/about/index.aspx.
The Biodiesel Showcase also featured biodiesel-compatible vehicles from Ford, Chrysler, PACCAR, GM, and Hine. Representatives were on hand to discuss the latest vehicle models and technologies.
Conference attendees and the general public were invited to test out biodiesel-powered vehicles from Ford and Chevrolet, including the 2016 Ford F-350, the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 2500, and the 2015 Ford Transit.
In addition to enjoying the ride-and-drives, students from across the nation presented their research on innovations in biodiesel and biofuels during the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel poster presentation and conference session.
To check out student presentations, visit the National Biodiesel Conference blog post at http://blog.biodieselconference.org/next-gen-scientists-discuss-value-of-nbb16/.
The National Biodiesel Board's annual event offers a unique opportunity for industry stakeholders to network and exchange information. The 2017 event will be held in San Diego, California, at the San Diego Convention Center. For more information on the conference, visit the National Biodiesel Board website at http://biodiesel.org/. For photos and highlights of this year's event, be sure to check out the conference blog http://blog.biodieselconference.org/.
To learn more about biofuels in Tampa Bay, read TBCCC's recent feature article about the USF Biofuels and Bioproducts Lab at http://www.usf.edu/pcgs/initiatives/tampa-bay-taps-into-renewable-energy-biomass-algae.aspx.