AD: What exactly is biodiesel?
BD: Biodiesel is an alternative fuel FOR DIESEL ENGINES ONLY. Biodiesel is derived from vegetable oils that are domestic crops that can be re-planted every year. Biodiesel is truly a renewable fuel with a reduced emissions profile. Biodiesel is actually a process from vegetable oil. We use and take vegetable oil from fryer grease that we have donated to us from various causes. We bring in 40 gallons of waste oil and we mix it with about 8 gallons of sodium methoxide, we run the reaction, we let it settle and we pull the biodiesel off the top and the glycerin of the bottom basically. We run the biodiesel on our vehicles. There are actually 2 kinds of entities going on here. The Austin Biodiesel Coalition, which is more of a club and that’s what runs our processor. We all pitch in together and make fuel and share the fuel that we make because we can’t legally sell the fuel that we make. We are not an ASTM licensed processing facility so it’s more of a club to make the fuel, but then we have our Austin Biofuel which is an LLC for which is a for profit business venture that is distributing and reselling biodiesel that we buy from a licensed ASTM plant manufacturer. So we actually have 2 things going on here. Today we are going to load up a tank and deliver it to one of our costumers whom we deliver to so he can load up his busses. That’s part of our reselling that we are doing out there. Our whole mission here is to displace petroleum and engage in sustainable economies and reduce emissions.
AD: What do you need to use biodiesel IN YOUR CAR instead of regular diesel?
BD: A DIESEL ENGINE. You don’t need to convert your vehicle at all. I think that’s a common misconception. Biodiesel often gets confused with straight vegetable oil and there’s definitely a movement towards people using straight vegetable oil with their automobile, but it requires that you to convert your automobile. Biodiesel is a fuel that can be used right now with no conversion necessary, no change in info structure. It will blend with petroleum diesel with no problem and typically the EPA considers a blend of 20 percent a green fuel. That’s a 20 percent blend of biodiesel to 80 percent of petroleum diesel. By blending that in that ratio you can make a significant difference in emissions
AD: Are you the only provider of biodiesel in Austin?
BD: Yes, in Austin right now we are the only providers of biodiesel.
AD: If someone wanted to switch over to bio-diesel are there other networks to get it or do you just have to buy a lot?
BD: My friend Jeff just traveled all the way up to the East coast and was able to keep his car running on biodiesel the entire way. He was always able to find it in at least a B-5, which is a 5 percent blend on up to B-100. It’s available in the Midwest a lot because that’s where the soybean farms are. A lot of biodiesel is made from virgin soybean oil. Jeff’s tour out to the Midwest and East coast was very successful. I just went to the mountains and there were a few places places around but not many. A “Do it yourself” biodiesel road trip across the country is possible, you just have to go dot to dot on the map to keep fueled up on biodiesel. If you wanted to go to one specific spot it might be more challenging.
AD: Are there any negative emissions from biodiesel?
BD: Biodiesel has higher lubricity and it’s a better fuel for your engine no question about that. The diesel we have in the United States is pretty low quality. It has a lot of sulfur; it’s pretty nasty fuel. So biodiesel helps it be a better quality fuel when you blend it. Biodiesel’s biggest problem is it’s slightly increases nitrous oxide emissions. That by itself is not really a problem, but that is one of the emissions the Feds want to reduce. Although it should be pointed out that biodeisel reduces the cancer causing emissions by 90 percent. No sulfur, much cleaner fuel, and it’s also renewable.
AD: You’ve got to wonder why it isn’t more wide spread?
BD: Biodiesel has been around since the diesel engines have been around. It’s not a new thing, but petroleum is plentiful and cheaper. Biodiesel, during the depression, was quiet common. People would run their tractors on it because there wasn’t a lot of petroleum around. Especially during WWII, but after WWII petroleum completely dominated the fuel world. No one really got into biodiesel anymore. It’s had a long history. It’s not more common because it’s more expensive than petroleum diesel. There’s not a lot of money in it. The scale is not where it needs to be in order for it to be profitable. In the next 10 years biodiesel will be apart of every gallon of fuel, but it will be a while. There is a strong movement here in the United States right now. When I got into biodiesel 4 years ago not as many people knew about it. I have seen the momentum really come around and more and more people are taking it into our own hands. It’s not a viable business operation right now for corporate America, but eventually as fuel prices rise, it will be. Last year in all central Texas and Travis county, only about 6,000 gallons of biodiesel were sold. That’s mostly the University. This year within the last few months we’ve sold over 2,000 gallons. So, we have increased the quantity of biodiesel being used in Central Texas significantly, we’ll continue to do so.
AD: Do you think it’s the lack of awareness, or are there other limitations on the lack of use?
BD: The biggest barrier to the market right now is price at retail price including federal taxes. It’s $3.40 a gallon. As our distribution and our supply channels get better it will go down. Also, there is some legislation pending that could help.
AD: Do you get more miles per gallon?
BD: Not necessarily, I’ve heard a lot about that. I don’t know if that’s been quantified. It helps your injection systems; it increases lubricity in you injection system and your vehicle runs more efficiently.
AD: It may sound like a small price to pay to help the environment. It may be more expensive but the side affects are what’s better for the environment.
BD: Absolutely, I think what people really need in the United States is a real paradigm shift in the way that we think about fuel. People are willing to pay more for a gallon of water than they are for a gallon of fuel and so it’s amazing that we get angry when fuel prices go up to $2.00 per gallon. It’s still a fraction of what they pay in Europe for fuel.
AD: America is pretty crazy about fuel. Look at Iraq and what there doing over there for oil.
BD: People really do have a skewed sense of value for fuel. Cheap fuel is what drives the capitalist economy. When fuel prices start getting high people start to freak out. It affects everything. I believe by engaging in alternative and renewable economies you tend to increase opportunity in those industries and you can invite innovation and can stimulate the economy in new areas rather than just maintaining the status quo. Biodiesel is a way people can change the way they think about fuel. For instance biodiesel is produced in the United States so if it’s produced by a crop in the United States and it’s produced in a facility in the United States then all the fuel dollars stays within our own economy. For instance you if pay $2.00 for gasoline 24 cents goes to federal government, 20 cents goes to state and about 20 cents goes to the refinery/marketer and the rest goes overseas. With biodiesel everything stays within our own local economy. That in itself is a great incentive. So we have economic and environmental incentives.
AD: So anyone with a diesel engine could use biodiesel?
BD: Absolutely, the only consideration is that older diesel engines will sometimes have fuel hoses made of rubber like anything older than 1993- Biodiesel is more like a solvent, it has solvent properties so if you have an old rubber hose it tends to wear it out over time. That’s not a major consideration, you just need to change those hoses. I run all my old vehicles on biodiesel. So bring out your diesel cars and we’ll fuel it up and you can drive away in a green machine. We are open for business every Tuesday from 10am – 6pm. On 1st Wednesday of every month we’re open until 9:00pm Directions to 10012 Old Lockhart Road #3A(from Central Austin), take I-35 South to Slaughter Lane. Turn Left (East) onto Slaughter Lane and drive about one mile until it dead-ends into Old Lockhart Road. Turn right (South) at the “T” onto Old Lockhart Road. Drive about a mile and look for our sign on the right. We are in Shop space #3A.