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Oregon Man Promotes Plant Oils for Fuel

by John Schmitz
Capital Press - March 15, 2002

ALOHA, Ore. -- With the motto "Let's clear up the air and support American farmers," a man in Aloha, Ore., is encouraging Northwest growers to plant oil seed crops, such as rapeseed, that can be used to make clean-burning diesel fuels.

"I'm pretty much just a catalyst," said Club Biodiesel founder Bill Isbister, who set up shop at the recent Northwest Ag Show in Portland.

He's trying to do two things: get Northwest farmers to grow rapeseed for its oil and beat the drum about the benefits of using biodiesel fuels in diesel engines.

While Club Biodiesel is a non-profit venture, Isbister, who formerly sold buffalo meat at farmers' markets, will help market biofuels made in a new biofuel plant being built in Bellingham, Wash.

The plant, which is owned and operated by Global Biofuels, is expected to be online by spring.

Isbister said the United States is well behind Europe in making and using biofuels.

"In Europe, all farmland not allocated to growing food is set aside for growing rapeseed. In Germany alone they have 900 filling stations where you can get biodiesel. And there's probably not even 100 in the United States."

Half the cars in Europe are diesel.

Biofuels are produced by combining methyl hydroxide and crop oil. The fuel produced can be used alone or blended with conventional diesel.

Biofuels give off 90 percent fewer emissions, such as carbon monoxide, Isbister said. "What's more, they have a very low toxicity, about the same as table salt."

Biofuel spills are much less a problem than petroleum-based fuel spills because they biodegrade in less than a month.

Fuels made from oil seed are used in diesel engines only. They're somewhat equivalent to the ethanol produced from corn, used in gas-burning engines.

He estimates biodiesel would sell for about $1.50 a gallon, and that the price won't change radically as world oil prices do. "If we get the production up, we hope to go even cheaper."

An acre of rapeseed can produce as much as 1,000 pounds of oil, or about 120 gallons. That's almost double the yield from soybeans.

Globally, there are more than 350 oil seed products that can be used in making biodiesel. In Southeast Asia they're making biodiesel with palm oil.

Isbister, who also had a booth at last year's exhibit drew lots more people. "I had everybody in the world coming at me with different ideas. Now I have to sit down and see what's real and what isn't."

He plans to eventually have Club Biodiesel chapters all over the world. "I'm talking to people in Australia to set one up there."

Isbister said John Deere is one of the more active players among equipment makers getting the biodiesel program established.

In a recent news release issued by the National Biodiesel Board, officials said renewable fuels legislation being considered by the U.S. Senate could boost the U.S. economy by $300 billion and create as many as 300,000 new jobs by 2016.

Visitors to Isbister's booth were asked to sign a petition that supports bills by two U.S. senators, Chuck Haggle, R-Neb., and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., who are working on legislation that would give tax breaks to people using biodiesel.

Both senators are urging Congress to pass bills that would make the United States less energy dependent by mandating that a percentage of motor fuels contain biodiesel or ethanol.

Related Sites:
National Biodiesel Board
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

by John Schmitz
Oregon Man Promotes Plant Oils for Fuel
Capital Press - March 15, 2002

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