Monday, June 12, 2006

Biodiesel: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Yesterday we were excited to see a biodiesel-powered Jetta and pick-up truck in a parking lot in Santa Cruz. We always see a lot of Prius vehicles in our peace-loving, ecoconscious community. We view them as signs of change, a move toward breaking Americans' addiction to petroleum.

One year ago, Jorah Roussopoulos opened a solar powered biodiesel pump at the Mountain Feed and Farm Supply on Highway 9 in Ben Lomond, then last Friday, a major retailer in Santa Cruz County switched from traditional diesel to biodiesel. The price, $3.16 per gallon, was the same as for the regular diesel being sold by a competitor across the street.

Jorah said he has more than 300 biodiesel customers and sales have quadrupled in eight months. At first he charged $3.71 per gallon but the price has come down about 30 cents since then. He can't match the USA station, which set its price to build a customer base. Even so, Jorah isn't worried about the competition, "We'll be sending people their way," he said. "I'd like to see a biodiesel station on every corner."

The environmental benefits of biodiesel are twofold: Emissions of greenhouse gases and carbon monoxide are reduced and demand for oil shrinks because the mix consists of 1 percent petroleum and 99 percent vegetable oil.

Both biodiesel outlets get fuel from the same source, Pacific Biofuel of Moss Landing.

The deal came about when the CEO of Pacific Biofuel and Kris Moller, whose father owns the USA chain, held a (surf) board meeting on the water.

Two local school districts are trying biodiesel in their school buses.

Prior to the opening of USA biodiesel pump, the bulk of Pacific Biofuel's customers have received their biodiesel via home delivery of 55-gallon drums. Although convenient, this delivery service is not exactly cheap. Customers have been paying up to $3.85 per gallon to have the fuel delivered to their door.

Older vehicles that use diesel would require a retrofit for biodiesel, but that doesn't seem necessary for newer models.

More to come....