Vegas Vacation, aka National Biodiesel Conference

As well as being an intern this winter at YTCEC, my other hat is as Co-Chair of the National Biodiesel Board’s Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program. As part of this role I was lucky enough to head down to Las Vegas last week for the 10th annual National Biodiesel Conference & Expo.

The theme of 2013’s conference was ‘Momentum’ – chosen to capture the energy and growth of the industry’s first twenty years and propel it into the next twenty. The industry was celebrating the reinstatement of the $1/gal biodiesel tax credit, as well as the upping of the federal mandate to 1.28 billion gallons a year. No small feat for an industry that started in a small lab in Missouri in the early nineties.

Intern, Morgan Curtis, posing on the world’s first street legal biodiesel motorbike.

The National Biodiesel Board also announced an ambitious goal for the ten years going forward: biodiesel as 10% of the nation’s diesel consumption by 2022. With more and more engine manufacturers, government departments and consumers signing on for biodiesel use every day, this doesn’t look like too lofty a charge.

Another big focus of the conference was debunking the common ‘food vs fuel’ criticism with respect to biodiesel. A common misconception of the fuel is that it presents a competing market force for food products, raising prices for consumers. In fact, when biodiesel was discovered in the early 90s it finally presented another use for soybean oil, the long-underutilized co-product of soybean meal, an animal feed. Now that soybean oil is more valuable the price of the meal is driven down, lowering feed costs for livestock farmers. NBB claims not a single acre of soybeans has ever been planted in the US for biodiesel production.

Other sustainable biodiesel is made from recycled cooking oils and animal fats. And the newest feedstock to reach the market is actually algal oil, derived from algae that can be grown on wastewater. The industry’s potential is just huge.

I run my 2004 Volkswagen TDI on B100 in summer and B20 in winter, all with great results and no modification to my fuel system required. I think there’s no better feeling than the freedom of driving around on 100% renewable fuel. Here in Jackson this winter you can buy B10 at Wrangler Shell on Broadway. Up in Belgrade you can get B5 at CFN on Thunder Road, and B20 is available at both Phillips 66 on E. Sunnyside and at Conrad Bischoff’s in Idaho Falls. And if you’re outside of the Greater Yellowstone Area, click here to search for a station near you.

Happy 20th Birthday Biodiesel!