January 30, 2006 | General

Energy Independence With Help From Biodiesel

BioCycle January 2006, Vol. 47, No. 1, p. 52
Governor’s plan would create new markets for crops grown in Washington state, while launching renewable energy enterprises.

GOVERNOR Christine Gregoire of Washington last month presented an “energy independence” policy based on biofuels like biodiesel that would build a market for crops such as canola. It would also encourage bioenergy ventures from seed-crushing plants to manure digesters. At a news conference held at the Yakima Public Works Department and reported in the city’s Herald-Republic newspaper, Gov. Gregoire stressed that this agenda “will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create new markets for crops grown in the state.”
The Washington legislative package would target $17.5 million in low-interest loans from the general fund to the private sector for the biofuels industry. For example, a dairy could borrow to build an anaerobic digester to produce methane from manure. “This is the economy of the future,” summed up Gregoire.
A basic step in the legislation would require a minimum of two percent biodiesel in all diesel fuel sold in the state, while farmers would know they’d get paid for growing canola seed for use in making biodiesel. “This is going to be tremendous for agriculture,” enthusiastically stated Ted Durfey, owner of Natural Selection Farms in Sunnyside, who has been growing canola with nutrients provided by biosolids. Durfey will report on his results at the BioCycle West Coast Conference in March in Portland, Oregon. (See program on pages 15-17 of this issue.) Meanwhile John Plaza, president of Seattle Biodiesel, the state’s only facility for refining seed into biofuel, called the governor’s proposal “incredibly important” for getting the industry up and running.
Founded in late 2003, Seattle Biodiesel is currently running two pilots with Northwest farmers to develop oilseed crushing and refining capacity in Eastern Washington. The company produces unblended B100 biodiesel refined from a variety of oils – such as canola, soy and many other crops. The firm also produces and sells crude glycerol, a by-product of its refining process. Besides marketing to public and private fleets in the Northwest, its biodiesel is also used in Seattle school buses.
According to Plaza, a gallon of biodiesel now sells for $3.10, while regular diesel before Hurricane Katrina was priced at $2.65 in Seattle. After Katrina, regular rose to $3.35 while biodiesel prices stayed the same. “As supply increases, the cost of biodiesel would come down,” Plaza declares. “As the Northwest’s first commercial-scale (5 million gallons/year) refinery producing ASTM-certified biodiesel, we are committed to enhancing local energy economies while producing high quality fuel that consistently exceeds industry standards.”

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