PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The 2019 American Boiler Manufacturers Association (ABMA) Annual Meeting afforded met at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, on Jan. 18-21 for its Annual Meeting.

The meeting afforded members the opportunities of networking, education, and a break from already cold temperatures in much of the country. Unbeknownst to the approximately 200 people in attendance at the time, a polar vortex was splitting apart during their gathering. Of course, boiler manufacturers do not fear the cold, but many might rather have stayed in Florida a few extra weeks had they known what was happening above the North Pole.

This meeting featured a transition in leadership as Earle Pfefferkorn, president, Cleaver-Brooks, completed his two-year term as chair of the board. John Viskup, president and CEO, Victory Energy, has asecended to the role of chair of the board, and Doug Wright, president and CEO, Superior Boiler, was elected to vice chair. In addition, ABMA elected Steve Taylor, director of sales, WARE, and Tricia Stabile, president, Robinson Fans, to the board of directors.

Special honors were bestowed upon members for longevity with ABMA. The 75-year members include Clark Reliance, 1927; Detroit Stoker, 1937; and Hays Cleveland, 1938. The 100-year members include Babcock & Wilcox, 1918, and Hartford Steam, 1918. The longest standing member recognized for 125 years with ABMA was Johnston Boiler, 1889.

The opening keynote speaker was retired Col. Nicole Malachowski, a former U.S. Air Force pilot and the first female Thunderbird pilot. Malachowski, a 20-year veteran who flew 188 combat hours, recounted her childhood dream to fly jets and how encouragement afforded her the opportunity.

“General Mark Matthews told me once when I was doubting my aspirations that ‘Nobody wants to lead a scripted life,’” she said.

Far from scripted, Malachowski overcame several hurdles in her life and career. Aside from the fact that no female had ever piloted an Air Force fighter jet when she first longed to do so at age 5, Malachowski later endured the second longest childbirth labor ever recorded at Walter Reed Hospital. Later in life, she became paralyzed with a tick-born illness that threatened her life and ended her career as a pilot. Malachowski related how she battled the common and uncommon obstacles in her life, and how obstacles of similar stature befall all of us in daily business.

One of her stories of Air Force training resonated with the business leaders of the ABMA who must constantly manage change referred to the art of delegation. Malachowski had been having a very difficult time learning a particular maneuver during Thunderbird training until a flight team member shared his secret, “When going through turbulence, loosen your grip.”


Educational Sessions

A number of innovative topics appropriate to the membership were conducted over the four-day conference, including Cyber-risk Insurance, Drones in Boiler and Plant Inspections, and Emerging Technologies for Emission Monitoring. Perhaps none were quite as entertaining as the Alternative Energy topic presented by Fred Lyon, a long-time consultant to large utility companies and U.S. government agencies and an interesting presence at ABMA meetings for more than 20 years.

“Any discussion of energy encompasses what fuel is next,” Lyon said. “The current debate over coal will have an impact on the market regardless of which side you are on. The move to coal by the Trump administration, though interesting, is not being reflected in the marketplace. Three major coal-burning utilities are moving in a different direction — one is going to natural gas, and two are moving toward renewables. So, though it sounds good to some, the market is not following the Trump lead,” said Lyon.

His message inferred that the marketplace will not plan its future on four- or eight-year political swings, rather it plans for much further into the future.

“Ninety-five percent of utility executives are not supporting the future of coal. For example Xcel Energy plans to drop coal entirely by 2050 — the first major utility to set such a goal. However, coal still constitutes about 30 percent of U.S. power generation today. An unanticipated change in technology would be needed to save coal’s future, and who is to say that won’t happen. Someone in a lab somewhere could be working on that solution.”

Lyon said he is not counting on such a coal breakthrough, and he presented an argument for what he considers a reasonable solution this this nation’s energy future: 30-30-30 by 30 — 30 percent natural gas, 30 percent renewable, and 30 percent nuclear by 2030.

Using the same wry humor that Lyon peppered the ABMA audience with throughout his presentation, he said, “Of course this is coming from the same guy who told you we would never elect a black president whose name rhymes with Osama and that we would never elect a reality game show host to be president.”

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