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July » 2010 » Biodiesel is Good

Archive for July, 2010

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class="post-34 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-biodiesel-in-afghanistan">

The Perfect Solution

July 21st, 2010
CEO of Springboard Biodiesel

CEO of Springboard Biodiesel

I was recently forwarded a brilliant analysis by Mssrs. Wayne Arden and John Fox entitled “Producing and Using Biodiesel in Afghanistan” (http://biodieselinafghanistan.org/uploads/AFGH-PAPR-20100609-EXEC.pdf). I strongly encourage anyone interested in biodiesel to read this, as it describes a very rare triple win biodiesel production situation: turn opium into biodiesel in Afghanistan. This accomplishes the following goals: Dramatically reduces the cost to the military of their diesel fuel (any organization that calculates efficiency with the metric “gallons per mile” needs alternatives); provides a level of energy independence; and reduces the Taliban’s main cash crop (opiates), and keeps the poppy farmers well paid! In short the local feedstock is perfect economically and politically and militarily!

When I read this, it felt like I had just discovered a suitcase of $100 bills. Money on the ground, but what’s the catch? How can it be this easy? Surprisingly the physical/chemical/economic process is just as easy and elegant as it seems (pick up the suitcase). Unfortunately, the logistics need time. The US military is nothing if not HUGE, and so getting the right people to notice the suitcase and then take steps to pick it up will likely take time, but it will be time well spent.

General Patraeus, please give me a call and let Springboard Biodiesel contribute to the mission.

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class="post-7 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-biodisel-china-vs-the-united-states">

Biodiesel in Wuhan: curiously refreshing

July 8th, 2010

CEO of Springboard Biodiesel

CEO of Springboard BIodiesel

I spend an inordinate amount of time at work in a state of externally-induced, moderately-controlled frustration (EIMCF). It’s hard enough running a manufacturing business in CA, especially if you try to combine manufacturing and clean-tech, the outcome of which is invariably a pervasive sense of helplessness as you watch ill-informed, generally uninterested bureaucrats, legislators and other “public arbiters” repeatedly hamper the market for your output – in my case biodiesel fuel. I write letters to congress men/women; I vote; I try to keep my voice civil, but to date “success” has eluded me, and frustration is camped out in the lobby.

Now as everyone knows the best way to avoid someone or something in your lobby, is to go on a trip. I chose China, where I spent a week spreading the Word – the Biodiesel Word – and I have to say that I found it refreshing to cast off the shackles of US bureaucratic malaise and replace them with enthusiastic Chinese support.

Visit Mark Roberts blog at Springboard Biodiesel.

The Chinese understand the value of biodiesel and support its development and proliferation. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising, given that their economy is growing faster than any other and that they are projected to double their consumption of energy by 2020 with virtually all of that coming from “foreign sources”. Energy security is a big deal in China, and so biodiesel has a seat at the table as the government looks to create a total alternative energy portfolio.

I thought I’d share a few observations from my trip that started in Wuhon at the Oil Crops Research Institute and finished in Yingkou at the Liaoning Energy Institute. I think they provide an excellent reference set for supporting this vital global industry.

First of all, the Chinese government bought several small-scale biodiesel processing units from Springboard Biodiesel, so that they can begin to develop a strategy that allows their burgeoning diesel fleet to pollute less and use more indigenous fuel. In contrast, in the US, where we burn 60 billion gallons of diesel fuel annually (how does this compare), our government is neither exploring small scale production models, nor supporting active commercial scale plants. In fact, our legislators have killed every single bill to reinstitute the biodiesel tax credit for 6 months now, resulting in shuttered capacity, 12,000 job losses, technology leakage and a growing sense within the industry that our collective future may need to find succor elsewhere.

Springboard Biodiesel: View our Biodiesel Processor’s.

Next, the two Chinese government institutes with which we worked to set up our systems, had no less than 12 people dedicated to the project. They want this project to succeed because they know biodiesel works, and they know they can make it domestically, and they know that it will provide them a much-needed additional energy resource at a similar or lower price than they pay for diesel. (And they seemed happy, when I reminded them that biodiesel will meaningfully reduce their carbon footprint – not sure it was a top three priority, but appreciated nonetheless).

By the way, the Chinese government has mandated a 10x increase in the use of biodiesel by 2020. Compare that to Massachusett’s recent decision to annul its bioheat mandate (#18) to use a meagre 2% biodiesel blend. Don’t blame MA. They’re only reacting to the federal-level stall in pushing the industry forward; they’re not interested in picking up an unfair burdon, if no one else is.

The Chinese government has committed millions of dollars and millions of acres to alternative oil crop research, particularly Jatropha, an inedible weed that requires little in the way of farming resources and can produce over 200 gallons of oil per acre (versus soybean oil which is less than 50 gal/acre).

Upon my return, frustration – in the guise of another stalled Senate Bill – met me in the lobby, but I ignored it, and took comfort in the fact that we are competing globally with our local, small-scale, best in class product line.