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    « Join Earth Hour on March 29 | Main | What to do on a Stormy Day? - Old School/New School »

    Grassroots Gas: Establishing the Ventura Biodiesel Co-op

    Coopusage_2 Access to biodiesel for consumers in the Ventura area is best described as dismal. Few options exist other than driving to Santa Barbara or Los Angeles to get biodiesel at the pump. Otherwise, you must rely on having drums of fuel delivered to your residence, which is costly and only possible if you have an area for drum storage.

    For several years it was going great. We had B20 and B100 at TW Brown, the first marine fuel dock carrying B100 was in our harbor and then we got the USA selling B99.9, 24/7 in Ventura.

    Now, TW Brown is not in business, the fuel dock converted to selling non-road-tax biodiesel and the USA chain was bought by Tesoro Petroleum Corporation and they decided to only sell B5.

    Those of us who were dedicated biodiesel consumers got left out in the cold.

    There is now a viable option coming for biodiesel consumers in our region. A biodiesel purchasing co-op is being established which will allow members access to at least B99.9 at a reasonable price and in their local area.

    [Photo: Members gather at a Los Angeles Biodiesel Co-op trailer.]

    The Ventura Biodiesel Co-op's mission is to develop the market for biodiesel through education, outreach, and advocacy while providing members with access to quality biodiesel fuel.

    We are trying to find a location to place one of these co-op trailers and some feel that Patagonia would be a great central location. Other locations for fueling facilities will be identified once enough interest is generated in a specific region. Then more fueling facilities can be established to meet those local needs.

    Cooptrailerold_2 The model for each facility is to provide a 14-foot box-cargo trailer with 1,000-gallon capacity in DOT approved containers. By operating as a mobile fueling source, many of the regulations regarding stationary fuel tanks are avoided. Being mobile also allows the co-op to take the trailer to the bulk fuel distributors, which will lower the cost of the fuel to members. The co-op trailer can be located at either a friendly business or municipal property.

    [Photo: What a Ventura Biodiesel Co-op trailer might look like.]

    The biodiesel provided to members will be sourced as locally as possible. Negotiations are underway for the co-op to be supplied by the biodiesel production facility at Port Hueneme. This would truly be a regional fuel, made in Ventura County from our used cooking oils. We would know that our fuel dollars are staying at home.

    At this time, B99.9 (99.9% biodiesel/.1% petroleum) can be purchased in bulk for $3.75 per gallon which includes all taxes. To avoid liability for collection of sales taxes, the co-op will not mark up the fuel. It is anticipated that some form of membership dues will be required to cover the cost of facility equipment and operation.

    Members would be given a combination that opens the trailer doors and key that activates the electric fuel pump. Members would use an honor system to log their fuel draws based on the pump meter readings. In Seattle, a similar system has worked well as each member prepays for 100 gallons, draws against that amount, then repurchases again when needed.

    The membership might need to be limited in number at each location. If there were 15 members that each used 800 gallons per year (66 gallons per month), the trailer would requiring filling every month. If membership expands or fuel use increases, the refilling cycle for the trailer would be shortened.

    At this time, the co-op is still being formed and the trailer will soon be ordered and placed in service. There are still membership positions available, so if you are interested in participating send an email to membership@sustainableoptions.com. In the email, provide your contact information, your physical location and the amount of biodiesel you anticipate using on a monthly basis.

    The ideal goal would be to show enough demand for biodiesel in a specific region that a brick and mortar fuel station will step forward to sell biodiesel and put the trailer out of business.
    Then the trailer would be relocated to the surrounding towns of Santa Paula, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, etc. with the same goal in mind.

    The Ventura Biodiesel Co-op is being modeled after the Los Angeles Biodiesel Co-op which for two years has been providing B99.9 in two locations to over 125 members. The co-op was the catalyst for the opening of three retail pumps in the region and still is providing around 2,000 gallons of biodiesel monthly to its members.

    The president and co-founder of the LA co-op is providing technical and moral support for the Ventura Biodiesel Co-op. He is also a potential member as he works in Ventura (imagine that).

    If you want more information write to us at membership@sustainableoptions.com. You can also direct questions about the Ventura co-op to me at enviro_vta@patagonia.com or in the comments section below.

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