Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pumping Biodiesel In Ojai

Saturday opening for fueling station, group seeks to prove need

By Linda Harmon
The energy crisis has given rise to a new type of fueling station in Ojai, biodiesel. The Ventura County Biodiesel Cooperative is having its grand opening July 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Help of Ojai’s West Campus, 370 Baldwin Road.
The solar-powered traveling fuel pump can hold over 1,000 gallons of fuel, which the group purchases and then retails. Interested customers normally will go online to become a purchasing member, but for the opening day only, the cooperative plans on offering a one-day membership to try their fuel.
“We are particularly proud of this batch because it comes from recycled vegetable oil,” said Tom Francis, who, along with other area residents Paul Jenkin, Kent Bullard, Christopher Blunt and Scott Wilson, is responsible for bringing the cooperative’s trailer to Ojai. “We have two missions in bringing it here. The first of which is to let people know that biodiesel is a carbon neutral fuel.”
According to Francis, the exhaust coming out of your tailpipe with this fuel will be absorbed by the plants that are now being grown to make future bio-fuel.
“In this situation you’re burning carbon,” said Francis, “but we’re also growing plants which will clean the air by pulling the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.”
The cooperative members hope to quantify the need and demonstrate the demand in the Ojai area for the plant-based fuels.
“We’re a nonprofit and we want to prove there’s a market,” said Francis. “Later we hope someone else will come to Ojai and put in a pump. Our goal is to be successful and be put out of business.”
The idea is for the cooperative to move the trailer to different locations to determine the market, moving on and expanding the neighborhoods served by others as it goes.
“How long it stays is up to Ojai,” said Francis. “It depends on how many people step up to the plate and use it. The trailer will go where the demand is.”
The co-op members also want to make clear that customers don’t have to convert their diesel car to burn biodiesel.
“Basically if you take a fuel cap off your diesel car to fill it, you can pump bio-fuel into it and then put the cap back on,” said Francis with a laugh. “The biodiesel is run through a process to take the glycerin out of it and the process produces a nice, clean, thin fuel that can burn in any diesel (engine).”
In response to objections raised by opponents of bio-fuels who say land should not be used to grow fuel but feed the hungry, Francis said, “That is a valid concern because people don’t want to think of people starving, but I think people should really look into changing their diet first.”
Francis feels re-directing some of the land used for animal production into human food production is a better answer and allows for use of bio-fuels as an alternative to polluting and declining reserves of fossil fuels.
“The state of California animal waste surpasses human waste several thousand-fold each year,” said Francis. “Animal production is the No. 1 depleter of both topsoil and our fresh water aquifers.”
Francis feels that not only do the advantages of bio-fuels to the environment far outweigh the disadvantages, but its costs are now typically within 10 cents of what a gallon of regular diesel costs. A gallon of the cooperative’s biodiesel is now $5.26 according to Francis.
To find out more go to biodieselnow.com.

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