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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

Perspective is everything

In the biobased diesel news world, perspective is everything in my humble opinion. There is an inherent, sometimes intangible value that comes from experience. After more than 16 years covering this sector, I have picked up a thing or two. If I hadn’t, then I should have sought a new profession quite some time ago.

Like any responsible news editor and writer, I monitor the competition. In more than a few instances recently, I had to laugh. In another recent instance, I had to take action.

When I saw one of my original, copyrighted articles on another outlet’s site, I was forced to act. My byline was found nowhere on the reposted article, which appeared in full on this other site. They are trying to sell advertising around their content—unsuccessfully thus far, I might add. So, the idea of someone taking one of my original articles, which involved two telephone interviews, time, energy, knowledge and experience, and reposting it to their site as if it were their own is distasteful at best and unethical and illegal at worst.

I suppose because they provided a link back to my website at the end of the article—the complete article, not a teaser as if to say, “for the rest of the story visit the site where this story was originally published”—they may have thought this was acceptable. It is not. I have had to address this type of copyright infringement numerous times with various outlets over the years. This just happens to be the most recent. I sent them a request to remove the stolen piece, and they never responded. But they did, in fact, remove my article from their site.

Back to the value of perspective—I had to laugh on several occasions over the past few weeks. Honeywell UOP recently issued a press release about ECB Group choosing UOP’s Ecofining process for its Omega Green renewable diesel and SAF complex in Paraguay. Okay. I get it. This is an important project, and UOP is a major process technology provider to this sector. I know and respect Erasmo Carlos Battistella, ECB Group CEO. I had the welcomed occasion to meet him and several of his colleagues at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo a few years ago. I have written a number of articles over the past couple of years on the Omega Green project.

So, when biofuel news outlets all over the globe ate this news up as if they were getting a major scoop, I had to chuckle and shake my head because this was anything but news, in my opinion. I published articles well over two years ago that this very biorefinery planned to use UOP technology to make renewable diesel and SAF.

In another similar instance, on March 18—National Biodiesel Day—the National Biodiesel Board issued a press release that pointed to how biobased diesel operating capacity in the U.S. has reached 3 billion gallons. The point of the release NBB issued was to say that we are halfway to achieving the industry vision of 6 billion gallons by 2030 and essentially a fifth of the way to its 2050 goal of 15 billion gallons. This vision was unveiled in January 2020 in Tampa at the National Biodiesel Conference by NBB. I was in the front row and covered the news immediately afterwards. However, several for-profit news outlets, and one in particular, framed up a modified headline for the NBB release as if this vision—the one that was set by the organization 14 months prior—was new and the point of the story.

While this vision is important, and NBB is right to celebrate the halfway point to it on National Biodiesel Day, the vision itself was not new and it was not the point of the story. Any news editor with the slightest modicum of experience or perspective in this space who received this release from NBB should have known this. The headline created by this particular for-profit website’s “news editor,” therefore, demonstrated an extreme lack of perspective.

In another instance, this week I saw a story on a competitor’s site that seemed like “old news,” something many others—including them—posted several weeks ago. When I checked back further in their files from last month, they had in fact posted the same story twice, a few weeks apart. Huh?

A while back I remember one news site featuring a photo of a farmer or researcher inspecting the leaves of what were obviously corn plants to accompany an article about soybeans. Really? In the words of President Joe Biden, “Come on, man!”

Perspective is valuable, but just being present in one’s responsibilities is important too. I realize we all make mistakes. I certainly have. But stealing other people’s copyrighted material for your own gain; not vetting press releases to ensure what they are releasing is in fact news; not being engaged enough in the industry you are purportedly covering to identify the actual news in the releases that are sent to you, and to frame up headlines that actually speak to that news and not something 14 months old; reposting the same story twice within a few weeks; mistaking corn for soybeans—this, in my humble opinion, is unacceptable. The people who rely on biofuel news deserve better than this.

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Advanced Biofuels USA
Biobased Academy
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Michigan Advanced Biofuels Association
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Missouri Soybeans
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