Austin Reaches Biodiesel Big Leagues
New local partnership makes Austin biodiesel pump headquarters
Thanks to a new partnership between local biodiesel distributor Austin Biofuels and local fuel retailer Triple S Petroleum, Austin now has more B20 biodiesel pumps than any other U.S. city. Austin Biofuels struck a deal last July with Triple S Petroleum to make the blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel usable in any diesel vehicle with modification that has been available at all of Triple S' 19 Signature Austin convenience store gas stations since May.
Among the notables on hand for an official announcement about the agreement, made at the Signature Austin station on I-35 and Slaughter last Friday, were Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs and State Rep. Mark Strama, along with ABF founder Jeff Plowman. In the background were a Mercedes-Benz sedan and a huge box truck fueled up with B20, the price of which is generally close to regular diesel's. Before the event, Plowman said ABF still intends to build a biodiesel production plant in Austin, which would help Austin retain some of the 99% of fuel dollars currently leaving the community. He also said, however, that he has shifted ABF's focus toward biodiesel distribution and marketing, as plants are in the works all over the state, yet there's still a relatively small number of gas stations with biodiesel pumps.
"The industry is changing, and we knew we had to get out in front with alternative fuels," said Triple S President Ford Smith of the partnership with Austin Biofuels. Smith also said his retail and fleet biodiesel sales have both been very successful and that commercial customers tell him "their trucks run better and get better mileage." Biodiesel has higher ignition quality and thus better lubricity than petroleum diesel, while decreasing nearly all regulated polluting emissions, depending on its blend ratio.
To further aid ABF marketing efforts, Combs announced at Friday's event that the company's pumps would be tagged with the "Go Texan" stamp, since ABF's biodiesel is made in Texas. Combs also said Texas biofuel producers (including biodiesel and ethanol) are eligible for a state incentive that will net them 16.8 cents per gallon, up to 18 million gallons over 10 years.
Rep. Strama emphasized his desire to see Texas "remain on top of the global energy industry," noting that California has plans to tax oil and gas companies doing business there, many of which are Texas-based, in order to subsidize its developing renewable fuel industry. He favors similar moves here and said that "if we're smart, we won't fight; we'll lead the movement to new fuel technology." Asked why transportation fuels weren't included in the Legislature's special session boosts to the state's renewable energy goals last year, Strama said "there was no market to justify the mandate."
But that seems to be changing. ABF is now selling 1 million gallons of biodiesel a year, up from 30,000 gallons last year and 3,000 the year before. (In addition to its Signature Austin B20 pumps, Austin Biofuels operates two local 99% or 100% biodiesel pumps.) The company serves a variety of fleet customers too, including Real Ale Brewing, Texas School for the Deaf, Aqua Water Systems, El Sol Landscaping, and Texas A&M. And they recently made a deal to help supply Austin Airport Fast Park's entire fleet with B100.
The National Biodiesel Board's Jenna Higgins said Texas is the nation's No. 1 producer of biodiesel, making 96 million gallons a year (tripling last year's production). Biodiesel may have sailed into the perfect storm of high fuel costs due to compounding Middle East bloodshed and Americans' collective realizations of the havoc petroleum emissions are wreaking on our planet. "Americans see domestic energy security as the number one reason to use biofuels, even more than the environment," Higgins said. For more info, see www.austinbiofuels.com and www.biodiesel.org.