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Opinion | Clean, renewable biodiesel industry adding jobs, reducing pollution across U.S.

Mark Bentley

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If only Rudolf Diesel could see highways across America today. The inventor of the Diesel engine, which ran perfectly on peanut oil not long after its debut around the turn of the 20th century, would certainly be amazed to see that biodiesel has grown into an industry that supports more than 64,000 jobs, $2.5 billion in wages paid and more than $11 billion in total economic impact in the United States.

It is amazing that consumers in the U.S. saw nearly 2.7 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel produced in 2018. Biodiesel is the first and only EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel with commercial-scale production nationwide.

Biodiesel is made, after two decades of research and improvements, from an increasingly diverse mix of resources and is one of the most sustainable fuels on the planet. That biodiesel-powered vehicle that passes you on the highway may be running on a mixture of recycled cooking oil, plant oils, animal fats, recycled grease, soybean oil or even algae. We do not sacrifice food for fuel to create biodiesel. Oils and fats for biodiesel are a minor byproduct of producing high-protein feeds, like soybean meal, and quality cuts of meat.

Additionally, biodiesel production adds 11 cents per pound of value to soybean oil, equal to 63 cents per bushel or $36 per acre of additional value. Because of that added value to farmers, the protein from soybean crops can be made more affordable for foods for families or feed for livestock.

In “well to wheels” analysis, 100 percent biodiesel reduces lifecycle carbon emissions more than 50 percent compared to petroleum-based diesel, making it the best carbon reduction tool of any liquid fuel commercially available, according to the National Biodiesel Board. As a result, biodiesel is the first commercially available “Advanced Biofuel” — as designated by the EPA — on the market.

Biodiesel is biodegradable, non-toxic and burns much cleaner than petroleum-diesel. Compared to petroleum-diesel, biodiesel reduces black smoke (particulates), carbon monoxide and harmful unburned hydrocarbons that cause smog. U.S. biodiesel is an advance biofuel that has the highest energy balance of any commercially available fuel. B20 biodiesel, 20 percent biodiesel/80 percent petroleum-based diesel, returns 5.54 units of renewable energy for every one unit of fossil energy needed to produce it.

Clean-burning biodiesel can be used in existing diesel engines without any modification. Production of biodiesel is guided by stringent international (ASTM) fuel specifications, developed through years of testing. The industry also has an excellent fuel quality program that ensures that only the highest quality biodiesel is delivered to your fuel tanks.

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While biodiesel is a perfect fuel for regular passenger vehicles, its use for fleet vehicles – trucks and buses, for example – is a great money-saver for industries that are increasingly running on thin profit margins. Using biodiesel also helps our overall economy by reducing our dependence on foreign oil from unstable parts of the globe, while expanding and diversifying our domestic refining capacity. Biodiesel also improves the balance of trade as using this fuel creates added outlets for farm-based products and creates high-paying manufacturing jobs in rural America.

Among U.S. heavy-duty truck segments, which account for more than 87 percent of actual diesel fuel usage, every major engine manufacturer supports B20 in their new engines except for Daimler’s Detroit Diesel (which remains at B5). There have been more than 45 million miles recorded of successful, problem-free real-world operation with B20 biodiesel blends in a wide variety of engines, climates and applications.

The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition will host two free biodiesel workshops on April 10 and 11, in Bessemer and Montgomery. The Bessemer workshop on April l 10 is from 9 a.m. until noon, including lunch, at Lawson State Community College’s Ethel Hall Room 201 at 1100 9th Avenue Southwest. The Montgomery event, also 9-12 on April 11, is at the auditorium of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries at 1445 Federal Drive.

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Those in attendance will hear from experts who will provide information and resources necessary to allow fleet managers to make the sound business decision to add biodiesel to improve their bottom line. The workshops are an opportunity to open up an honest conversation to address any concerns about biodiesel. This fuel is a sound choice for municipalities, school districts, fuel distributors, service station owners – and all consumers. All are welcome to attend the free workshop. Registration is required at www.alabamacleanfuels.org/blog/post.cfm/free-biodiesel-workshops.

If Rudolf Diesel were around – he’d be there.

Mark Bentley is Executive Director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition.

About the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition:

Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, a nonprofit membership-based organization, is the state’s principal coordinating point for alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles. ACFC is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program. The promotion of clean, renewable, domestic energy sources helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil, improves local air quality and increases economic development opportunities in our local communities. For more information, please visit www.AlabamaCleanFuels.org or call 205-402-2755.

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Economy

Likely Republican primary voters reject Poarch Creeks “winning” plan

Bill Britt

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A survey of likely Republican primary voters obtained by APR shows that a majority do not support giving the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly over gaming in the state despite the tribe’s promise of a billion dollars.

Over the last several months, PCI has orchestrated a massive media blitz to convince Alabamians that they have a winning plan for the state’s future in exchange for a Tribal-State compact and exclusive rights to Vegas-style casino gaming.

The survey commissioned by the Republican House and Senate caucuses and conducted by CYGNAL, a highly respected Republican polling firm, found that only 34.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters are buying what the tribe is selling. On the contrary, nearly 50 percent of Republicans oppose the plan, with almost 40 percent voicing strong opposition.

Of those surveyed, females are against the plan by nearly 50 percent, with men weighing-in at almost 60 percent unfavorable to PCI’s proposal.

Perhaps most significant is that PCI’s monopoly plan was widely rejected in areas where the tribe already operates casinos. In the Mobile area, nearest Windcreek Atmore, over half of Republicans see a monopoly unfavorably. The same is true in the Montgomery area, where PCI has two gaming facilities.

Not a single big city surveyed in the state held a favorable view of PCI’s plan with Birmingham and Huntsville rejecting the tribal monopoly by almost 50 percent.

Very conservative, somewhat conservative and moderate voters didn’t view the plan as positive.

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Ninety-one percent of respondents said they defiantly would be voting in the upcoming Republican primary on March 3.

PCI has lavished money on media outlets throughout the state, garnering favorable coverage, especially on talk radio and internet outlets. The tribe has also spent freely on Republican lawmakers.

Perhaps some good news for PCI is that Republican primary voters believe that state legislators are more likely to represent special interests above the interests of their constituents.

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PCI lobbyists continue to push the tribe’s agenda at the State House in defiance of Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for no action on gaming until her study group returns its findings.

The survey found that Ivey enjoys a 76.3 percent favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters.

 

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ADECA names Elaine J. Fincannon as new deputy director

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Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell announced on Thursday that Elaine J. Fincannon has been appointed as the agency’s deputy director.

Fincannon most recently served as Senior Vice President for Investor Relations for the Business Council of Alabama. She worked with BCA for over 25 years as part of its senior team, working with a diverse range of business leaders and CEOs of Alabama’s largest employers. During that time, she also served as BCA’s liaison to Alabama’s trade associations and to the more than 100 chambers of commerce throughout the state. She also served on the President’s Committee and Corporate Partners Committee for the Alabama Automotive Manufacturer’s Association and was a part of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association’s membership committee.

“Elaine Fincannon’s extensive knowledge and experience with the public and private sector in our state made her an ideal choice to be ADECA’s new deputy director, and I am pleased that she has decided to bring those talents to the agency,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “Elaine is mission-focused, forward-thinking and detailed-oriented, which are the exact skills needed to serve as deputy director of ADECA. She and I will work closely together to continue supporting Gov. Ivey’s mission of improving the lives of all Alabamians.”

Fincannon is an active member of the community, serving as a member of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the Junior League of Montgomery, the Montgomery Humane Society, Auburn University Montgomery Alumni Association and other volunteer efforts. She also served as a member of the American Society of Association Executives and was an officer of the Association of State Chamber Professionals. She has a bachelor’s degree of science from AUM and was honored with a Distinguished Chamber Professional Award in 2019 by the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.

Fincannon joins ADECA with a focus on working with Boswell to meet the agency’s mission to strengthen and support local communities.

“It is an honor to join ADECA during this time, and I am grateful to Director Boswell and Gov. Ivey for this appointment,” Fincannon said. “I plan to work diligently to serve the people of Alabama to the absolute best of my ability.”

 

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Alabama Workforce Council delivers annual report touting improved career pathways

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The Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) recently delivered its Annual Report to Gov. Kay Ivey and members of the legislature. The report highlights the many and varied workforce successes from 2019. It also outlines policy recommendations to further solidify Alabama as a leader in workforce development and push the state closer to Ivey’s goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to the state’s workforce by 2025.

Gov. Ivey acknowledged the recent progress stating, “the continued efforts of the AWC and the various state agency partners in transforming our workforce are substantial. Significant work has been accomplished to ensure all Alabamians have a strong start and strong finish. We will continue to bolster our state’s economy through dynamic workforce development solutions to help us reach our ambitious goal.”

The AWC, formed in 2015, was created as an employer-led, statewide effort to understand the structure, function, organization and perception of the Alabama workforce system. The goal of the AWC is to facilitate collaboration between government and industry to help Alabama develop a sustainable workforce that is competitive on a global scale. 

“This report details the tremendous efforts of the dedicated AWC members and their partners who have greatly contributed to the progress of building a highly-skilled workforce.” noted Tim McCartney, Chairman of the AWC. “To meet ever-growing job needs of an expanding economy, we have put forth recommendations to bring working-age Alabamians sitting on the sidelines back into the workforce to address our low workforce participation rate.”

Included among the many highlights from the report are:

  • Created the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship to support apprenticeships and work-based learning statewide.
  • Established the Alabama Committee on Credentialing & Career Pathways (ACCCP) to identify credentials of value that align with in-demand career pathways across Alabama.
  • Furthered foundational work toward cross-agency outcome sharing through the Alabama Terminal on Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS).
  • Commissioned statewide surveys to better understand the characteristics, and potential barriers, of the priority population groups (during record-low unemployment) identified as likely to enter or re-enter the state’s workforce. 
  • Provided technical assistance, support staff and grant writing services to a cohort of over 30 nonprofits from across the state enabling them to expand services and directly connect more Alabamians to training and economic opportunity. Services helped cohort members secure over $6.4 million in grant money through various out-of-state grant programs.
  • Identified and evaluated 17 population segments of potential workers and determined the likelihood of adding members of those respective population segments into the workforce. Within this process, issues affecting the state’s labor participation rate were also detailed. 

Vice-Chair of the AWC Sandra Koblas of Austal USA commented, “the energy around workforce development in Alabama right now is incredibly exciting. We are working together with businesses, nonprofits and agency partners to reduce barriers, increase opportunities and grow the state’s overall economy.”

The full report can be viewed here.

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To learn more about the Alabama Workforce Council please visit: www.alabamaworks.com/alabama-workforce-council

 

 

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Economy

Shelby announces $733,150 ARC POWER Grant for Opportunity Alabama

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Wednesday announced that Opportunity Alabama, Inc., a nonprofit initiative in Birmingham, Alabama, is the recipient of a $733,150 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant.  This grant will fund the Creating Opportunity for Alabama (COAL) Initiative.

“ARC’s decision to award this funding to Opportunity Alabama will help significantly boost private investment and business development throughout our state’s coal-impacted communities,” said Senator Shelby.  “I am proud this nonprofit initiative is working to help our local communities understand and capitalize on Opportunity Zones.  These federal funds will facilitate an improved quality of life in Appalachian Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs and dozens of new businesses.”

“Opportunity Zones, and the private investment they incentivize, are helping uplift communities throughout the Appalachian Region,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas.  “Opportunity Alabama is working to ensure communities understand and are able to capitalize on this program to improve Appalachian Alabama, and this POWER investment will have a big impact on that mission.”

 The project will create an investment funding and business development ecosystem targeted to the federally designated Opportunity Zones in 36 coal-impacted counties in Alabama.  As a result of the ARC grant, Opportunity Alabama will work with a team of local, state, and national partners in a three-phased approach.  The first phase will work on building a local capacity to effectively prepare for and attract Opportunity Zone investments, focusing particularly on rural communities.  The second phase will create a pipeline of investment opportunities to attract substantial private investment by facilitating demand studies, environmental assessments, and construction cost estimates.  The third and final phase will focus on developing and implementing an impact-investment data collection and analysis process to make it easier for investors to deploy their capital.

This project will yield 250 new jobs, create 25 new businesses, and leverage $100 million in private investment.  In addition to the federal grant provided for the project, Alabama Power and the Alabama Power Foundation are expected to provide private financial support.

Opportunity Alabama is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to connecting investors with investable assets in Alabama’s Opportunity Zones.

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