Busted small-time biodiesel producer has loftier goals

An early pioneer of biodiesel who was warned by the EPA for bootlegging the homemade vegi-fuel says the regulatory agency had valid concerns. Rob Del Bueno was a rock-and-roll bass player when he became obsessed with biodiesel in 2001. He started making his own brew to feed a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 240D, and soon his operation expanded to some 55 gallons a week. When an alternative weekly featured his efforts, more customers lined up, including the EPA. He discovered he faced heavy fines for running an illegal fuel production facility.
In a recent Grist article, Del Bueno says he first suspected a conspiracy driven by the oil companies but then admitted the EPA had legitimate concerns of safety and environmental responsibility. Since then he's been researching a legal way to resume his passion.

With a suggestion from a friend, Del Bueno considered a non-profit avenue. When he approached the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy for funding, they took on the entire project and hired Del Bueno to run it. Hopefully he'll oversee a plant that will convert waste cooking oil into 200,000 gallons of biodiesel. One of his visions is an automated retail outlet housed in a standard shipping container that could operate like an ATM machine in just about any parking lot. That way he bypasses the problem of established gas stations not carrying the product because of low demand.

The article also follows the challenges of Co-op Power, another grass-roots biodiesel startup searching for funding.

[Source: Emily Gertz/Grist]

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