"The most distressing part of all this is that people know what is coming and yet are simply willing to react to today’s crises rather than act to prevent tomorrow’s."
Do you need more information about renewable energy? Then Lee Enterprise Consulting with their broad range of experts, is the place to go. Founded by the current CEO, Wayne Lee over twenty two years ago, it has grown into the world’s largest bio-consultancy group. Their areas of expertise include: biodiesel, ethanol, biomass, renewable chemicals, waste-to-energy, pyrolysis, biomass, cellulosic, gasification, biopolymers, biobutanol, biochar, torrefaction, and carbonisation. The group has strategic alliances with alternative and renewable fuels companies worldwide, and maintains ongoing relationships with reputable fuels' law firms, accounting groups, engineers, and fabrication facilities. They serve all faces of the bio-economy. Our content executive Emily O’Dowd interviewed Wayne to find out more about the firm and his stance on the future of the bio-based industry.
Emily O’Dowd (EOD): What inspired you to set up your own bio-based consultancy?
Wayne Lee (WL): My vision was, and still is, to create a world where energy is derived from natural sources. I imagine a world where our environment is clean and stable – one where the entire world’s population can share our natural resources. I have always believed in the Native American philosophy that you should treat the earth well because it wasn’t given to your by your parents, but rather loaned to you by your children. As a father and grandfather myself, I hope to play a part in creating a sustainable world. In the twenty-plus years that I have been working in the industry, I see the great impact that energy has on world economies, environments and world security. That is why I am so proud when I look at the team of talented professionals that we have assembled.
EOD: It must have been an extremely niche industry when you started up the company, so how have you seen it change over the past ten years?
WL: I think that people are beginning to realise that renewable energy is so vital to the future of our planet. At some point, petroleum derived products will either run out, or at least become so expensive, that they will no longer be our best option. Petroleum is certainly a successful and necessary fuel, but it is getting harder and more expensive to extract. It’s time that everyone started accepting this and plan accordingly.
EOD: What do you enjoy most about working in this industry?
WL: Working with my team. What makes Lee Enterprise Consulting unique is not just our size, but the quality of our experts. We have truly become a “one stop shopping centre” for all alternative fuels and renewable chemicals solutions. Our team consists of academics that keep us current with the latest innovations, and those who work in the industry on a daily basis. We have engineers, chemists, financial experts, attorneys, accountants, and all kinds of people who know what it takes to make projects successful. The most exciting thing for me is watch them all work together on cutting edge technologies as they develop solutions for our clients.
EOD: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced starting up your own company in the bio-based space?
WL: The biggest challenges we face all revolve around eliminating politics from the process. Politics and government policy greatly affects renewable fuels just like it does traditional fuels. What I really wish was that every politician had as a prime concern taking care of the planet, our population, and future generations. Working together, the problems we face are solvable.
EOD: What advice would you give for someone starting work in the sustainable/bio-based industry?
WL: I strongly believe that the bioeconomy is the field of the future. As we slowly move away from non-renewable oil and gas, it makes a lot of sense to consider teaching this to our young students. It is so important that young people grow up having a love and respect for the environment and the planet on which they live. Also, diversity is key. At Lee Enterprise Consulting, one of the things that keeps us stable through the ups and downs in various industries, is the fact that we are so diversified. When one sector is down, we have another that is up.
I think this depth and breadth of knowledge on our team is what attracts investors and lenders in this space to us. In recent years I have seen more investors and capital groups that are looking to make a real difference in the world. As a result, I see a lot more investment going into the bio-based economy. A potential problem is that many prospective investors don’t understand the technologies or their environmental and financial impacts. That is where we come in. It is crucial that we increase awareness - explaining the good, the bad and the ugly. Investors need to know what the pitfalls are, what the returns on investment look like, and be able to evaluate the risk.
EOD: What single change would help develop the bio-based industry further?
WL: The main force of change will have to come from the world’s governments. They need to take a forward looking view to where the world will be in 50-100 years. It is crucial that we plan for the future rather than simply reacting to crises when they occur. Government subsidies by nature are designed to bring along industries that they believe will help in the future, but are perhaps not big enough to challenge the existing status quo. In my opinion, it is imperative that governments start assisting these new technologies and start-ups. There are going to be failures as we go forward, just as there have been in all industries, but the successes are what will change the world we live in. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where we could all breathe clean air and where wars would not need to be fought over oil?
EOD: I completely agree, but what do you think it will take to drive this change?
WL: Unfortunately, we live in a political climate that often reacts to negative events. Unless those in leadership take the initiative and look beyond today, this will be what it will take before everyone starts a full outcry supporting alternative fuels. The most distressing part of all this is that people know what is coming and yet are simply willing to react to today’s crises rather than act to prevent tomorrow’s.
EOD: Where do you hope Lee Enterprises Consultancy will be in five years’ time?
WL: We currently have a presence all over the world. However, since we are more heavily concentrated in the US and Canada, one of my near-term goals is to expand our international presence. Earlier this year, I established conclaves of experts and consultants in Europe, China and the Pacific Rim and would like to continue expansion to India, Africa and South America. We have people within our group working on this and looking for experts in these regions. If you are asking what my dream would be to see in five years, that is an easy one. I would like to see the whole world working together to make these bioeconomic changes occur. and start a new direction where we are not dealing with transportation problems, health problems, environmental problems, and wars for oil. I want to see a world where everything is in balance and everything is recycled.
EOD: What is your favourite bio-based/sustainable product aside from your own product range?
WL: I’m a big fan of bio-diesel which is probably because I'm biased towards the industry where I first started. I do think bio-diesel is a great addition to diesel fuel. It's not as glamorous as ethanol because it isn’t as highly publicised, but it’s a good alternative fuel.
My feelings can be summarised in one sentence: We must embrace all of the industries of the bioeconomy and start planning for the future rather than waiting to react to a crisis we knew was coming.
EOD: It was great to hear more about your sustainability story Wayne, and like you, I hope to see people acting rather reacting to the envrioment.
Bio-Based World News will bring this 5 minute feature to our readers every week. This will able to put a face to the brand and provide established businesses and new start-ups the crucial advise they need in this industry. If you would like to be interviewed about your own bio-based/sustainable business then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week's 5 minutes with... 5 minutes with... Sam Varney, Co-Founder of Silverstick.
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