Leader of ePURE steps down, looking to serve as consultant

By Holly Jessen | September 16, 2014

Rob Vierhout, secretary general of ePURE, is stepping down from his position at the European Renewable Ethanol Industry Association. The group has not yet publically announced the name of his successor.

The European ethanol industry is facing new regulatory challenges and changes in the major political institutions, such as the European Commission and European Parliament, Vierhout told Ethanol Producer Magazine.  He felt it was time to hand the reins over to someone else, who might be able to think out of the box to tackle these challenges. “Which I maybe cannot do anymore,” he said.

Vierhout originally came on board almost 14 years ago when the group was called the Association for Fair Trade in Alcohol, which became eBIO, the European Bioethanol Fuel Association. At the end of 2010 eBIO merged with UEPA, the European Union of Ethanol Producers, to become ePURE.

At this time he doesn’t have any plans for a new job, other than the idea that he would like to continue working in the ethanol industry as a consultant. “There are no clear paths,” he said.

Vierhout recalled when eBIO was formed in order to represent ethanol producers wanting to sell into the fuel market only, which at that time was a tiny portion of the ethanol market. The group started off representing only five companies, while ePURE represents 24 fuel ethanol producing members in 16 member states and 34 associate members, made up of companies or groups that don't produce ethanol but have an interest in the sector. 

eBIO and ePURe were both successful and effective groups that were well respected within the legislative bodies, he said. There were some exciting times, including the passage of a law in 2003 that eventually became the renewable energy directive, which aims to increase the amount of energy produced from renewable sources in Europe. “It was one big climb to the top, from the day I started into the sector, because we were starting something new,” he said.

Then, in 2010, indirect land use change came into the discussion. “For me, this has been one of the most difficult times working for the sector because I thought there was no justification, we were badly judged,” he said. “Actually we were already crucified before there was even a proper process, there was no a due process. We were just considered to be criminals.”

Despite the recent challenges, Vierhout strongly believes in the European ethanol industry. He feels it makes an exceptional fuel while making optimal use of agricultural products. “I still feel in Europe, we have managed to become part of the furniture in the house,” he said. “We cannot be kicked out. I think that’s our biggest accomplishment. We are in the market and we will stay in the market. I’m not going to say that we will push out fossil fuels entirely. It’s simply impossible and I don’t think that’s the objective. We are there and we are there to stay. And I think all the years we have been working and fighting together, that’s the biggest accomplishment that we have achieved.”

Vierhout, who wrote his first monthly column for EPM in September 2008, submitted his last column for the September issue of the magazine.  A new column called Global Scene, will have a rotating schedule between a different ePURE representative, the Global Renewable Fuels Association, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association and UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association. Bliss Baker, GRFA, wrote the first Global Scene column for the October issue of EPM.