July 17, 2008

The "Bridge Builder" of biomass conversion

Last night it was my privilege to attend a tribute to a decorated Marine who is an officer, a gentleman, and a war hero. He is also a towering luminary of the Biomass Conversion industry - who just happens to have reached the tender age of eighty.

Bill Holmberg is the Chairman of the Biomass Coordinating Council (BCC) of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). ACORE, co-host with the U.S. State Department for last March’s Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC), is the foremost American association promoting all forms of renewable energy. Their success is in large part because of Bill’s inspired leadership of the BCC.

I call Bill the “Bridge Builder” of biomass conversion because that is his principal contribution to a movement that has such large chasms to cross and requires the coordinated efforts of so many specialists. The key drivers for renewable energy touch defense, energy, economic, environmental, educational, and manpower issues that will occupy Washington policymakers for decades to come.

The threat of inertia within the industry is real because of the many narrow interests involved. But true leader that Bill has been all his life, he retains a sense of perspective, purpose, drive, and appreciation of the good intent of all the stakeholders that are committed to the paradigm shift. The nation’s capital, which excels at developing coalition builders, has none better than Bill Holmberg.

In attendance at his "Toast and Roast" were many groundbreakers who represent specific components of the movement. They, too, exemplify the kind of dedication and leadership necessary to gradually move the global village away from fossil fuels toward bio-based power, fuels, and products.

On hand were Jim Woolsey (former Director of the CIA), Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, Mike Eckhart (President of ACORE), Bob Dinneen (President of the Renewable Fuels Association), Brent Erickson of BIO’s Industrial Biotechnology division, Kevin Kephart (professor and a regional director for the Sun Grant Initiative), Carol Werner (Executive Director of the Energy and Environment Study Institute), Doug Durante (Executive Director of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition), Phil Madson (President of Katzen Inc.), Barbara Bramble of the National Wildlife Federation and Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, Max Shauck (Director and Professor of the Baylor Institute for Air Science), Mike Bowman of 25x’25, and environmental activist Suzanne Hunt.

Many, I am sure, first came into contact with Bill Holmberg in the same “burning bush” way that I did. I was driving to an appointment when I got a cellphone call from a perfect stranger. It was Bill and he had an invitation and a request. He wanted me to attend a one day meeting of his BCC in Las Vegas. My role was to represent “blogging” because he felt his group needed an expert that could contribute a communications perspective to leverage new media to the cause of moving bioenergy forward.

I am more than grateful that I went. There were fifty experts in the room who were focused on soil, forestry, farming, aviation, the paper industry, social justice, biomass logistics, military technology, Indian affairs, academia, genetics, the penal system, tree farming, environmental sustainability, biofuels, and bioproduct development. I was a kid in a candy store.

Everyone was involved in the conversation and, while none would go away feeling that their own perspective had been fully explored, all would come to realize the awesome scope of the enterprise, the role they had to play in it, and the genuine humanity of its aims - and of BCC's leader. That is Bill’s gift. There were many relationships that spawned that day, bridging some of the technological, communication, and interdisciplinary gaps of the attendees.

Anyone in a position to play a serious role in the coming bioenergy paradigm shift should seek out ACORE and its BCC chairman, Bill Holmberg. ACORE is hosting the RETECH 2009 show in Las Vegas February 25-27. Do yourself a favor - join ACORE's BCC and reserve a room in Vegas now.

technorati , , , decentralization,

No comments: