Growing up I was always surrounded by science, technology, and engineering in a very academic atmosphere, so I was naturally attracted by those kinds of areas.
I grew up in a small town in India that was a university town with a few research organizations. It was a very close-knit community and my father was a professor at the university.
The university also housed all the professors and staff that worked there. It was very much a home. Everybody knew each other and was there to help each other.
After finishing my undergrad degree, it was a natural transition to move on to higher graduate studies. All of them were always geared toward science and learning more and more things. That has certainly shaped what I am now.
I got my bachelor’s degree in geology, physics, and math. And, I also got a master’s degree in India in applied geology before coming to the United States to George Washington University.
Now, I live in Lincoln, NE, which also happens to be a university town. Lincoln just grew on my wife and me because it was kind of like the towns we were used to living in, and then we realized it is an awesome place to raise a family.
You get the same feeling living in Lincoln as I got from where I grew up in India. We’ve lived in and traveled to places all over the world. The quality of life here is amazing. Midwest values. Good people. That’s hard to find in a lot of places.
I was introduced to ethanol when I started working for the state at the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.
My first in-depth involvement was when I started my consulting firm and we started working for many ethanol plants helping them with environmental permitting and compliance.
That’s when we really got to learn more about ethanol and the amazing things it does for communities and the challenges it has had to face navigating the regulatory world.
We do serve a variety of clients including ethanol plants, power plants, mining companies, and other types of manufacturing. It is a wide variety, but ethanol is one pretty big piece of what we do. My day could end at 5 AM after having put in an entire day or night of work—or start at 2:30 AM and all other variations that you can imagine. The goal is to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our clients.
I’m really proud to have served as an environmental regulator who has been able to deploy the training and best practices. I—and my colleagues here—understand that our services help companies become a lot more productive and efficient while working diligently to adhere to increasingly rigid environmental standards.
The needs of the producers can include issues that they encounter while operating their plants, process changes that they desire to make to make the plants run better, more efficiently, or more profitably, and/or discussing regulatory and permitting requirements associated with small or large plant expansions that they wish to undertake to increase the capacity of the plants, allow them to handle more grain, allow them to produce or handle new products, or accommodate new materials or feed stocks at their plants. Or other needs. I get a kick out of doing all this and it does not feel like work at all.
Together with the ethanol producers, we embrace these challenges as part of our legacy and an ongoing professional practice. You know it is just so amazing to see the dedication that our clients have in making sure that they are doing the right thing.
I know firsthand that producers are quick to embrace sustainability and they are so enthused about technology and innovation that makes the work environment safe, and the production process more environmentally sustainable. They are so proud of the work they do. There is this constant innovation going on and I know it’s going to continue.
They are making use of more technology to better manage their plants also. Even with the same processes that they’ve always used, paired with new technology, producers can so effectively manage the ethanol production and environmental compliance that it’s pretty amazing.
Things have always kept evolving in our line of work so there’s never a moment when you can think ‘we have everything under control.’ You always have to be on your toes because there are always more regulations coming out and the existing regulations keep changing.
Not only are ethanol plants subject to so many regulations, they have complied with those regulations no matter how stringent they may be. They are staying on top of them. What has really struck me is the commitment to making sure that the plant staffs are doing the right thing in daily operations.
As far as I’m seeing, there’s always been very big advancements in how ethanol plants are managing their environmental compliance.
I know that ethanol producers and groups like ACE are always sharing the stories of progress and productivity with consumers and policymakers who sometimes seem to get preoccupied with the misinformation about biofuels generally and ethanol specifically.
I am really impressed that most of the people that work at these plants also come from local communities and they are extremely intelligent and bright people. It is an amazing thing that because of these ethanol plants there are highly-skilled technical, management, and executive jobs available in local, small communities.
I’m really, really proud and fortunate to have been involved with the ethanol industry. I know it will be a long-term relationship, and I know that this industry is here to stay—they are always committed to doing newer, bigger things.