The organization of renewable energy evolves over time

Donnell Rehagen is CEO of the Clean Fuels Alliance of America, formerly known as the National Biodiesel Board.

Rehagen grew up in the Jefferson City, Missouri area. He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer systems from Missouri State University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri. He became fleet manager for the Missouri Department of Transportation before moving to the biodiesel board in 2004, when he became its chief operating officer. He assumed the role of Managing Director in 2016.

IFT: How did you get involved with the National Biodiesel Board?

REHAVING: It was around 2002. I was a fleet manager for MoDOT and I wanted to try to make the fleet greener. Someone told me I should look into biodiesel, but back then it was very hard to find. So I found out about the National Biodiesel Board and they were only about a mile from my office. They were friendly and worked with me. A few years later, I decided to settle there.

IFT: Could you give us a brief history of the organization?

REHAVING: It was formed in 1992 as the National Soy Diesel Board when the state soybean boards of Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and South Dakota came together. In 1994 it changed its name to the National Biodiesel Board. He worked with farmers and with the industry to promote and develop the product. In 2021, the council changed the name to Clean Fuels Alliance America to reflect the organization’s position representing biodiesel, renewable diesel, and sustainable aviation fuels.

IFT: How about a little history of biodiesel production?

REHAVING: The short version is that in 2004 when I joined the organization, US biodiesel production was about 75 million gallons. Now it’s about 3 billion gallons. We are also working on developing markets and producing renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel, both of which hold great promise. These products are made largely from the same feeds as biodiesel, but the processing is different.

IFT: Ethanol was developed before we saw a lot of biodiesel. Many political battles over biofuels have centered on ethanol, and biodiesel sometimes seems to have been caught in the crossfire. Could you tell us about this relationship between the two fuels?

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REHAVING: We consider ourselves the little brother of ethanol. We learned from his mistakes and sometimes struggled to step out of his shadow.

IFT: The recent federal Inflation Reduction Act, also known as the Reconciliation Bill, included elements regarding biofuels. Tell us about that.

REHAVING: There were several good things in this bill. There was an extension of the biodiesel tax credit. This credit had often been allowed to expire in the past. In 2019, Congress passed a two-year retroactive extension, then added three more years, to 2022. This extended it another two years, then added three years based on carbon emissions reductions. . We’ll see how it goes. It will change the dynamic.

The bill also included funds for infrastructure that will help. These grants will help. These are strong signals that the government sends and it makes people in our industry a little more confident.

IFT: We have talked a lot about electric vehicles. What does this mean for biodiesel?

REHAVING: We are seeing the push towards electrification. But diesel is used for things like rail, trucks and boats etc. We believe there is still a place in these regions for biofuels as the industry seeks to decarbonise.

Using biodiesel could reduce carbon use by 74% compared to petroleum products. For example, if WalMart wants to reduce its carbon footprint by 40% by 2030, it will struggle to do so without reducing carbon in its transportation and shipping. And it should be noted that carbon adds up, which means that reducing carbon use now is better than reducing carbon later. We think we can have an impact relatively quickly.

IFT: You mentioned other products. Could you talk about it?

REHAVING: Renewable diesel is a good potential market. It uses a different production process which is a bit more expensive, but there is a demand for it. We forecast one billion gallons of new renewable diesel demand over the next 12 months and another billion in the next 12 to 18 months.

Sustainable aviation fuel also shows promise. Again, it uses the same raw materials but a different process. Electrification is not yet a good option for aviation, and we believe we could reduce carbon now by switching to sustainable aviation fuel. It’s a big potential market. The aviation industry uses about 24 billion gallons.

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