Steve Howell, president of MARC-IV Consulting, stopped to chat briefly with Minnesota Soybean CEO Tom Slunecka during the National Biodiesel Board Bioheat Tour in New York, Dec. 16. The following is what Howell said about how the checkoff has worked to help biodiesel earn ASTM specifications.
Question: So Steve, one of the things we’ve learned today is how important it is that we keep up with the oil industry. It’s kind of a David and Goliath story but you’ve been doing a great job of keeping us in the hunt. What are some of the things that you have done on behalf of U.S. farmers to make sure that our products are getting used?
Howell: One of the biggest things we’ve done is to create the fuel standards for the fuel to make sure that if you are going to use the fuel, it is going to work in your engine because how do you know if it’s actually going to work unless you actually have a good quality fuel. We spent a lot of checkoff money looking at all the research needed to do an ASTM specification for the fuel. That’s the bell weather standard. All the petroleum fuels have it. We know have it for biodiesel.
Question: So you said that you chair a committee that some of the oil companies are on. Who is sitting next to you in these meetings?
Howell: The folks that sit next to me in these meetings are the lead engineers and scientists, the best money can buy from Exon, from Chevron, from BP, Amaco, Conoco you name it, the best engineers and scientists money can buy go to these meeting because every company gets one vote and every company sends their best to ASTM.
Question: Because of your effort and because of checkoff dollars, we also get a vote, correct?
Howell: In order to have a successful vote you have the data to back you up. We’re going against companies that have way more resources than we do but we’ve used soybean checkoff funds to provide the data with which we need to fight those technical battles at ASTM.