Thursday, July 13, 2006

where be biodiesel?

A former Pennzoil plant north of Pittsburgh is slated to become one of the largest refiners of biodiesel later this year. Biodiesel magazine also lists 65 other plants to open across the country. So the question becomes, where will you buy this stuff.

Most days I pass what appears to be the only commerical source of biodiesel in the city on Baum Blvd in Oakland (see picture). Is this new supply coming online reflective of some unmet demand pushing up prices and inducing more suppliers into the market? Hard to tell since there is no price advertised by this dealer. If there really is some vast expansion in biodiesel supply coming, wouldn't there have to be more outlets to supply this fuel. Will there be separate biodiesel pumps at retail stations? Just seems strange that if the spigot is being turned on imminently, the rest of the supply chain needs a little ramping up.

After I thought of this I saw that Mark S. had already written on the state of biodiesel in the city a couple years ago. I hear he may have an update to that as well coming soon. If there are more outlets, he will have to do a full map/mash up so people know where to go to find them.

Update July 2007.. For those arriving . See the later post on the new biodiesel option in Oakland.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems easier to me to add biodiesel at the pump than it is to get a supply of affordable cars to use it in. As far as I know right now, your options are a VW, luxury car, pickup, or an old clunker.

I always assumed the production of biodiesel was driven more by suppliers of raw inputs looking for a new market than by demand (Similar to corn producers and ethanol.)

My guess is that you'll just see it replace regular diesel as commercial transportation companies try to act/look green.

Friday, July 14, 2006 9:04:00 AM  
Blogger EdHeath said...

By coincidence, I ran a throw-a-way post Thursday morning on what the coolest, more holier than thou Prius’s car would be, a Beetle TDI running on Bio-diesel. So yeah, whither be bio-diesel? It seems to me that the relationship between supply and demand is a little more complex than the previous comment suggests. The odds of someone who is interested in switching to bio-diesel already owning a diesel vehicle seem small to me. The cost of buying a diesel vehicle and then converting it without knowing for sure that you could get the fuel in places beside south Oakland and Export seems prohibitive. For vendors, the cost in dollars and time of acquiring even modest bio-diesel equipment seems prohibitive. A gas station in the town of my alma mater has done the conversion and talks about it here: http://www.oberlin.edu/stuorg/biodiese/index.htm.

If a taxi fleet, school or city buses, a corporate or university fleet or other city vehicles went bio-diesel, and used a privately owned gas station rather than their own dedicated pumps, then private citizens could feel confident about taking the bio-diesel plunge. We would know that the guaranteed use by a fleet would mean the station wouldn’t drop the bio-diesel in a year.

When that plant opens up, that may produce the supply of bio-diesel needed to encourage service stations to take the plunge.


For myself, it is probably not enough that I use CFL’s and drive a ’97 Accent (a stick, but I drive it a lot more than I should). I pass by that Baum Blvd gas station nearly daily, I really should look around for a used diesel car ...

Friday, July 14, 2006 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

"the relationship between supply and demand is a little more complex than the previous comment suggests".. sure I agree. No space here to really get into a discussion of general equilibrium here though. Lots of issues on how markets adapt to new products embedded in this.. first mover issues, standardization and marketing issues even.. I would agree that this new supply will likely wind up in fleet uses. Other alternative fuels never make it out of fleet use.. natural gas buses come to mind. In europe and in particular the Netherlands there are gas stations that have LPG (Liquid petroleum gas) pumps at retail stations. Its aparently not too big a conversion to make a diesel run on LPG. Anyone know what type of biodiesel they sell in oakland: B??.

I am curious, will have to check the history.. Did the VW plant in Westmoreland counties make any diesels?

Friday, July 14, 2006 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger EdHeath said...

All good questions. Two thoughts: what bothers me about fleets is that it doesn't seem to me much of a leap to make ot offer the fuel to private consumers. But then I have always (personally) thought liability issues are kind of silly. I understand them, I just think we should be able to trade risk for benefit. Then again, I have never sued or been sued.
My other thought; what's up with the French Fry oil? Is it illegal to sell? That otherwise seems so cool, though as we move towards better health it my dry up as a fuel source (Heh heh - better health - heh heh)

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