Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Scottsdale-based biofuel company

The AZ Republic describes a new Scottsdale-based biofuel venture in today's paper:
Easy Automation Inc. of Welcome, Minn., is opening a two-person headquarters in Scottsdale where it will launch Easy Energy Systems, with hopes to hire about a dozen executives.

Founder and Chairman Mark Gaalswyk aims to build a factory in Arizona that will produce modular ethanol distilleries that can turn waste, such as milk whey and corncobs, into ethanol.

One of these days we'll get our list of AZ biofuels orgs updated -- the list on the right nav bar is out of date.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Intel-ASU algae CO2 capture project

Intel Corporation and Arizona State University have completed the initial phase of a project called "(Towards) Zero Emission Fabs." The project, funded by a grant from Intel's Sustainability in Action program, explores two research questions: (1) can algae be grown using the CO2 from Intel factory boiler stack emissions, and (2) if yes, how would this kind of CO2 capture be counted or credited under different regulatory regimes? The video below provides an informal summary of the project results to date. (To be clear: this is not a DBI project; we are just reporting on it here. Brad from DBI is involved with the project wearing his "day job" hat as an Intel employee; Sam West of DBI participated as a member of the project's extended team.)

The team has made other material available as well:
  • Some raw video of the proof-of-concept implementation is here.
  • Every video segment shot, showing the proof-of-concept implementation in detail, is cataloged here.
  • Every still photo shot is here (the collection of still photos is limited; the video segments are more comprehensive).
  • A 1-pager summarizing the Kyoto Protocol research is here (author: Chris Baker)
  • A 1-pager summarizing the EU Emissions Trading System is here. (author: Ismail Aliyev)
  • A 1-pager summarizing the EPA Greehouse Gas regulations is here (author: Chris Thiele)
  • A 1-pager summarizing volutary carbon trading markets in the U.S. is here (author: Adam Neville)
  • The poster the team presented in connection with the Algal Biomass Organization's national conference is here.
The material created to date is fairly raw and informal; more polished material will be made available in due course.

For more information about the project, contact John McGowen or Brad Biddle.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Greg Gumbel is an Internet Bully

In 2009 Desert Biofuels Initiative hosted a workshop. We had a fantastic speaker line-up, made up of virtually every key biofuels stakeholder in Arizona. As noted in this press account, the workshop advanced our goal of developing a "unique collaborative, open source environment" for sustainable biofuels in Arizona. The workshop was free for all of the 150 participants, consistent with our non-profit mission. After the workshop we posted each speaker's presentation materials (with their permission); see this page. Among the material we posted was a video presented by a representative of Amereco, a company that makes biodiesel from waste vegetable oils. In this video CBS television sportscaster Greg Gumbel narrates what appears to be a news story about Amereco.

Today (January 25, 2011), we received a message from Greg Gumbel's representative stating that we are making an "unauthorized misappropriation of Mr. Gumbel's personal characteristics," which is "an infringement of Mr. Gumbel's legal rights" subjecting us to "serious legal liability." We are "hereby directed to immediately remove the aforementioned video from the Internet." Should we fail to "comply with this demand" Mr. Gumbel will "pursu[e] any and all legal remedies" available to him.

As a legal matter, this is complete nonsense. Note that Mr. Gumbel is not asserting that he owns the copyright in the video, but rather that Desert Biofuels Initiative is infringing his right of publicity by posting the video. To succeed with this claim, Mr. Gumbel would have to show that we are creating a false and misleading impression that Mr. Gumbel is endorsing some DBI product or service. That is, publicity rights claims involve unauthorized use of a celebrity's name or likeness for a commercial purpose. As should be blindingly obvious, we are not asserting that Mr. Gumbel endorses DBI in any way whatsoever. We sell no products or services. We have simply archived material from an important public forum, with the authorization of the party who provided the video. Any claim that DBI is infringing Mr. Gumbel's publicity rights isn't even remotely plausible.

Mr. Gumbel appears to be engaged not in an intellectually honest legal dispute, but rather in overt legal bullying. Mr. Gumbel presumably wants this material off the Internet and out of public discourse because it is deeply embarrassing to him. And he should be ashamed: as extensively reported by this watchdog site and summarized by the Center for Media and Democracy, Mr. Gumbel was involved in an extraordinary breach of journalistic ethics, under which the subjects of "news" stories paid for favorable coverage. This video appears to be an example of the scandal described by the watchdog group. Mr. Gumbel's shame (or whatever other motive is driving him) is no excuse for using spurious legal claims to try to bully organizations like DBI into taking legitimate, newsworthy material out of public discussion.

Indeed, Mr. Gumbel's demand that we take down this material makes the case for keeping it up even stronger. Attendees at our workshop, and researchers, scholars and other stakeholders tracking the development of sustainable biofuels in Arizona need to understand the context of this video -- which we were not aware of prior to Mr. Gumbel's missive. Knowing the context provides insight into the featured company, a key player in the development of an AZ biofuels infrastructure. Separately, it also now provides insight into the tactics of an individual involved in a remarkable journalistic scandal. Taking the video down would be inconsistent with our organization's public interest objectives.

We have provided a copy of Mr. Gumbel's message to us for inclusion in the database at the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, an organization devoted to stopping attempts to use intellectual property and other laws to silence online users. We've also pasted the full message below.


Text of message received:

Unauthorized Use of Greg Gumbel's Name and Likeness

January 25, 2011

Re: Unauthorized Use of Greg Gumbel's Name and Likeness

Dear desertbiofuels: :

Please be advised that IMG is the agent and representative of Mr. Greg Gumbel. It has come to our attention that you are currently posting a video on the Internet [I] which incorporates the name, likeness and performance of Mr. Gumbel.

You do not have the right to use the name, likeness, performance or any other characteristic of Mr. Gumbel in this video or otherwise. The unauthorized misappropriation of Mr. Gumbel's personal characteristics is an infringement of Mr. Gumbel's legal rights. Such infringement subjects you to potential serious legal liability.

Accordingly, you are hereby directed to immediately remove the aforementioned video from the Internet and cease and desist all further use of Mr. Gumbel's personal characteristics. Please provide your prompt written assurance within three (3) business days that you will comply with this demand.

Should you fail to comply with the terms of this correspondence, we will consider immediately pursuing any and all legal remedies available to Mr. Gumbel.

Sincerely yours,

Peter DeVita

SVP Business Affairs
304 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10010

cc: Greg Gumbel
Lash & Goldberg LLP

Sent to:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sam is back!

We're thrilled that Sam West has rejoined us, stepping back into his role as our part-time executive director. Sam initially joined us in 2008 as a third year law student; after graduation he took on a leadership role for DBI, managing several key projects. As we noted then, Sam brings a unique and valuable set of skills to the table for DBI, drawing from his experiences as a civil engineer, his MBA and law degrees, and his leadership experience associated with his serving on submarines and other roles as an officer in the Navy.

For the past year Sam has been serving the United States in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. He notes:
Kunar is a busy province in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan on the Pakistan border. I was the executive officer of a Provincial Reconstruction Team. Our three major lines of effort were governance, reconstruction and security for the Afghan people. I saw much progress while I was there. We were able to help bring infrastructure to a war-torn province where only several years ago there were no paved roads or power. From our assistance, we were able to see private business and markets within the province almost double over the year. The great news is we were able to start programs that encouraged sustainable development. This included agricultural programs, hydro-electric plants, wind and solar power. We also invested in the future of Afghan children by building over 50 schools in the province. While there is still much more to be done, we had a successful year and we were able to meet and help a great group of people. Although I enjoyed hiking through the mountains of Afghanistan, I think I am easily going to get used to the car again. I am looking forward to reconnecting with everyone and moving forward with our biofuel projects.
We're extraordinarily proud of Sam for his selfless service, very pleased that he is home safe and sound, and excited to continue working with him on our DBI projects. Sam can be contacted at

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Homebrewer fire in Maine

I came across an article about a fire associated with biodiesel homebrewing in Brunswick, Maine. This is just the second such incident that I'm aware of, based on monitoring relevant news articles, although a quote from a NFPA official in the article implies that there have been others. The article prompted me to review the blog post Eric wrote a year ago in response to a similar incident here in Arizona; Eric's thoughts, and the insightful comments on the post by Hans Huth, remain quite relevant. It also got me thinking about our meeting the City of Phoenix Biodiesel Task Force. The task force went silent as far as I know -- perhaps for the best, given the heavy-handed approach they appeared to be to adopting. I also was reminded of the quote from the US Fire Administration concerning homebrew biodiesel -- "The overall process is legal and relatively safe when properly performed" -- a useful point for regulators and policymakers to keep in mind.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Waste-based biofuels efforts in AZ

This issue warrants a more expansive post, but the addition of Tuscon-based EDG to the mix (see Biofuels Digest's Feb. 19th article "EDG to launch 1.5 Mgy waste based biodiesel plant in Arizona") makes a total of at least four companies in AZ focused on waste grease-based biofuel production. The others include AZ Biodiesel, Amereco and AZ Green Dining Network. (The website of Mountain Biofuel in Flagstaff reports that it is currently not operating.)

Additionally, the member-driven Dynamite Biofuels Co-op in Cave Creek is going strong.

Waste oil-based biofuels just make sense. We applaud the efforts of all of these organizations. Please give them your support!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vaclav Smil: 9 billion people + 1 Planet = ?

From the 'Quantum to Cosmos' festival held in Waterloo, Ontario, October 2009:

"Do we want 100 kilos of meat per year and Hummers or 40 kilos of meat per year and Hondas?"

Bill Gates blogs about 'alternative energy'

In addition to his significant philanthropic efforts, Bill Gates has been interested in 'alternative energy' for some time. Very glad to see he is now divested from ethanol investment and is on-board with algae.

On his recently launched 'Gates Notes' website he has a series of podcasts (in .wma and .mp3 formats) he talks about the need for 'carbon-free energy sources' and makes the call for increased government funding of 'basic research in energy':

Going to spend the morning listening!

Also glad to see he is giving Vaclav Smil page-space...

Okay, it's an hour and a half later...

Mentioned in the Gates podcast:

A couple recommendations from the 'Dummies' series -


And he mentions some online courseware that he's been studying on physics, but does not give many specifics on the podcast. Found this page for followup -

Not included there is a reference to Lewin, whom he mentions in the podcast -

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dan Rees (AZ Biodiesel) on the Biodiesel Tax Incentive

Dan Rees of AZ Biodiesel sent us the following note about the dire situation facing biodiesel producers due to the unexpected non-renewal of the biodiesel tax credit. While there are criticisms that can be levied against the credit program (e.g. at DBI we're unenthusiastic about the virgin soy-based biofuel that can benefit from the credit), the fact is that elimination of the credit will be devastating to local businesses like AZ Biodiesel, Amereco and AZ Green Dining Network that use waste vegetable oils (restaurant grease) to create clean-burning biodiesel. This local waste grease model precisely embodies our vision of sustainable regional biofuels, and a setback for a company like AZ Biodiesel would be a major blow to the development of a sustainable biofuels infrastructure in Arizona. Please give Dan's message careful consideration, and note his call to action near the bottom of his message.
Your Help Is Needed to Reinstate the Biodiesel Tax Incentive

Hi Everyone,

Az BioDiesel is still alive and producing for now without the $1 a gallon federal biodiesel tax credit.

It will hopefully be passed by Feb/March and be retroactive to Jan 1st but there are no guarantees.

For now, we (AZ BioDiesel) can afford to "weather the storm" and wait until the end of January to see if the tax credit will come back anytime soon.

Most plants around the country unfortunately, have closed or severely reduced production as they can't weather a long wait to get the tax credit dollars.

The word is that if congress doesn't get around to it before Feb, most of the industry will close and many may not be able to reopen. 29,000+ jobs will be lost very soon. Congress came back Jan 20th from their holiday break. Health care was still taking priority to anything else when they started.

Our industry is the victim of congress' focus on health care and not having time to pass the biodiesel tax credit extension which helps biodiesel to be competitively priced to the already subsidized petroleum fuels.

Several senators (Dem & Rep) have sent letters to President Obama to get the extension passed quickly but, no answer yet.

Some are saying that Big Oil is behind this. The EPA was going to pass (this Feb) it's new alt fuel standards which, for the first time, would include a national minimum requirement for 1 billion gallons of biodiesel to get the industry on its feet and growing. The EPA now is saying they may just give the 1 billion gallons to the ethanol industry to add to the minimum requirement they already have since they don't believe the biodiesel industry can now live up to the new requirement.

Another win for Big Oil and their support of ethanol! The alternative fuel (ethanol) that isn't a threat to the future of replacing petroleum oil.

It really concerns me that President Obama had the nerve recently to tout the $2.3 billion he gave out to create new forms of energy and add 17,000 jobs while he knows that the biodiesel industry is about to lose 29,000+ jobs and already can produce new energy but no one in congress or the white house seems to care. You'll notice very little press about the loss of the biodiesel tax credit and it's potential to bankrupt this industry even if they get around to passing an extension later in the year.

Please help save the biodiesel industry by going to this link and sending emails to our congressmen:

Your Help Is Needed to Reinstate the Biodiesel Tax Incentive

With your help, this industry can survive!!!

Dan Rees, AZ BioDiesel

Friday, January 15, 2010

Biodiesel Science Cafe TONIGHT

Apologies for the last minute post, but today at 5:30 I'll be joining Dr. Milt Sommerfeld and Dr. Mark Edwards for the January Science Cafe at the AZ Science Center. I'm also planning to ride and display my 150mpg biodiesel chopper. The event is free and open to the public. More info is available here:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Arizona: not on the algae biofuels map?

In December Biofuels Digest published an article "The Hottest 50 Companies in Bioenergy and the DOE Integrated Bioenergy Grants, in maps." They produced maps that represent:

1. Locations of the companies in their list of the "50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy."
2. Locations of pilot-scale projects of these companies.
3. Locations of demonstration-scale and commercial-scale projects for these companies.
4. Locations of pilot and demonstration-scale projects that received support in the $564 million Department of Energy IBR grants, announced in December 2009.

Observe Arizona's status in each of these maps (I realize that the keys aren't legible in these thumbnails, but here's all you need to know: blank = zero).

Granted, Biofuels Digest focused on bioenergy broadly, not just on algae. Nonetheless, in my view these maps demonstrate a problem: Arizona is not on the map (literally and figuratively) when it comes to algae biofuels -- and we absolutely should be!

Arizona should have owned solar: that is, we should be the leading region for solar in the way that Silicon Valley is the leader in information technology. For reasons I won't try to diagnose or analyze here, we aren't. We have a second chance, however, with "green solar" (to borrow Mark Edwards' term for algae). I believe that algae is a fundamentally transformational technology, akin to the semiconductor in its potential impact. Arizona has an extraordinary opportunity to lead in connection with algae biofuels and related products and services (nutraceuticals, bioplastics, wastewater remediation, carbon capture, etc.).

Consider the assets we have available to us:

1. Unbeatable natural assets: (a) sun, (b) heat, (c) abundant cheap, flat land, and (d) plentiful briny aquifers (not useful for much else given their salinity) and wastewater.

2. Incredible world-class research efforts, including the highly acclaimed [1] [2] work by Drs. Sommerfeld and Hu at ASU Polytechnic and the impressive work at ASU BioDesign. [4/23/10 update: the University of Arizona is also emerging as a research leader.]

3. Leading algae entrepreneurs, including XL Renewables (one of the few companies in the world to be currently producing algae for commercial sale, not just engaged in demo projects or research), Diversified Energy, Desert Sweet Biofuels, Energy Derived (.pdf), PetroSun (featured in the film Fuel), Heliae, Bye Energy and Algae Biosciences.

4. World-class policy analysts and thought-leaders, such as Mark Edwards (author of the award-winning and bestselling Green Algae Strategy), Colleen Crowninshield at the Tucson Clean Cities Coalition, Dave Conz and the team at ASU's Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO), and Sandy Askland and the team at ASU's Center for the Study of Law, Science and Innovation.

5. Increasingly strong support from trade groups and NGOs such as the Arizona Bioindustry Association, Science Foundation Arizona and the Flinn Foundation.

[4/23/10 addition: a commenter correctly noted that I neglected to mention two key pioneering efforts by APS: (1) the 2006 project at RedHawk, and (2) the $70M carbon sequestration project at Cholla Generation Station.]

To date, despite these strong assets, Arizona has lagged behind as other regions have taken the lead in connection with algae. I'm hopeful that this is beginning to change, for several reasons:

1. The establishment of ASU Lightworks under Gary Dirks can provide a focal point of leadership for the Arizona algae community.

2. The Algal Biomass Organization's Algal Biomass Summit, an important national conference, will be held in Phoenix in September. This provides a unique opportunity to showcase Arizona as a leading region for algae technology.

3. Government stakeholders are beginning to engage. Progressive government entities such as the City of Phoenix and the Town of Gilbert have provided demonstrable/tangible support, and other local and state government entities appear increasingly interested in engaging in the fashion we've seen in other states.

Algae presents an extraordinary opportunity for Arizona. I hope that we can capitalize on it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Biodiesel may be gone, sooner than you think...

The tax credit for biodiesel / petroleum diesel blends (1¢ for each percent biodiesel, per gallon) is set to expire Dec 31, 2009 unless extended by Congress. Locally, Dan Rees of AZ Biodiesel is looking for a community response to motivate Congress to extend the 'blenders credit' for another year, which allows AZ Biodiesel and other vendors to price biodiesel at (or below!) petroleum diesel prices.

Without the blenders credit -- which on the 99.9% biodiesel that AZ Biodiesel sells is effectively $1/gallon -- biodiesel prices will rise to levels significantly higher than petrol diesel. The end result: there may not be enough demand for biodiesel to keep it available here in the Valley.

Congress has less than two weeks to extend the blenders credit: if they don't, even a retroactive extension may not be enough to keep pioneers like Dan in business.

Time to make some noise!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Your turkey grease can clean our air and save taxpayer money

Desert Biofuels Initiative applauds the grease recycling efforts in the Valley (by the Town of Gilbert and AZ Biodiesel, and by the Dynamite Biofuels Co-op) and in Tucson.

At DBI we're not fans of the "Big Agriculture" model of growing corn or soy for conversion to ethanol or biodiesel. This model can can provide some air quality benefits, but otherwise has some serious flaws (e.g. excessive fertilizer runoff, displacing food crops). We're excited about the future potential of next-generation biofuels feedstocks (inputs), such as algae. However, there is another feedstock option that is widely available right now but that is currently being significantly underused as a biofuel input: so-called "yellow grease" or "WVO" -- waste vegetable oil and other similar waste grease, such as from restaurant deep fryers. WVO can be converted into clean-burning biodiesel (that can run in any diesel engine) easily and cheaply.

Did you know that:
  • There are about 10 million gallons of WVO produced annually in the Phoenix metropolitan area, but most of this currently is used as animal feed or simply "disappears" -- often down the drain.
  • If all of the WVO in the region were turned into biofuel that was used locally in place of petroleum diesel, this would take 100,000 tons of CO2 out of Valley air each year -- roughly the equivalent of taking 20,000 cars off the road.
  • We would also reduce the significant taxpayer expense associated with municipalities addressing the hundreds of grease-caused sewer blockages and overflows that occur in the Valley every year.
This Thanksgiving, we all have the opportunity to make a small contribution towards cleaner air and a cleaner wastewater infrastructure: we can recycle our turkey grease and other used cooking oils as biofuel. There are two WVO collection efforts here in the Valley: one in Gilbert, the other in Cave Creek. There is also a notable collection effort in Tucson.

Town of Gilbert and AZ Biodiesel

The Town of Gilbert continues to impress with their ability to demonstrate results when it comes to clean energy. For Thanksgiving they have partnered with Gilbert-based AZ Biodiesel and are collecting household grease at eight of the nine Gilbert fire stations. AZ Biodiesel will convert the grease to fuel, all of which will be used locally -- displacing petroleum diesel and reducing air pollution. Click here for details and a map to the various collection points. We applaud Gilbert's leadership in this area, and deeply appreciate AZ Biodiesel's commitment to the project and to sustainable biofuels in Arizona more generally.

Dynamite Biofuels Co-op.

The Dynamite Biofuels Co-op, a membership-driven grassroots biofuels effort based in Cave Creek, is also providing a grease recycling opportunity. The Co-op will have a grease collection bin at Big Earl's Greasy Eats restaurant, 6135 E. Cave Creek Rd. in Cave Creek. The team at the Co-op are longtime leaders in the Valley on biofuels issues, and we applaud their efforts to make this recycling opportunity available to the community. Check their website for additional details.

[Note: we understand that the Co-op would be willing to provide collection bins and pick up services at other locations in the Valley as well. Restaurant owners or others, please let them know if you would like to participate.]


To their great credit, the Tucson Clean Cities Coalition, Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department, and Grecycle have put on a day-after-Thanksgiving grease drive for several years. This year the drive will run from 9am - 1pm at three locations in Tucson: O'Reilly Chevrolet (6160 E. Broadway), the Pima County Industrial Wastewater Control plant (5025 W. Ina Rd.) and the City of Tucson Water Plan #2 (1102 W. Irvington Rd.). The Clean Cities website will have more detail.

So: this Thanksgiving RECYCLE YOUR GREASE! And while you're doing so, consider the opportunity for cleaner air and wastewater treatment cost savings that we're missing by under- utilizing this local resource as a biofuel feedstock.

[To our friends in the press: we'd love for you to tell this story! Here are some contacts if you'd like more info:

Beth Lucas, Town of Gilbert, (480) 503-6766,
Dan Rees, AZ Biodiesel, contact info
Gene Leach or Jay Nance, Dynamite Biofuels, contact info
Kathryn Van Kirk, Tucson Clean Cities, (520) 792-1093,
Eric Johnson, Desert Biofuels Initiative, (602) 996-9682,]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

AZ Biofuels Grant Program: A Missed Opportunity

If you had nearly $1 million to spend on advancing biofuels in Arizona, what would you do?

Here's my list:
  • Fund a program to incentivize restaurants to convert their waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. There are over 10 million gallons of WVO produced annually in the Phoenix area alone. The vast majority of this WVO goes into animal feed or is "missing" (presumably frequently going into the sewer system). Converting this WVO to biodiesel would have dramatic air quality and other benefits -- and would likely reduce the substantial costs to taxpayers associated with the hundreds of annual grease-caused sewer blockages in AZ. Prices in the WVO collection market don't reflect these air quality benefits or avoided municipal costs, however. Fixing this market flaw with a state-funded incentive program would yield us cleaner air and save real money for local governments.
  • Support the algae biofuels industry. Algae-derived biofuels ("green solar," to borrow Mark Edwards' nomenclature) are an incredibly promising, potentially transformational technology. Arizona should be a leader in this space: we have the necessary natural resources (sun, heat, wastewater, cheap flat land), leading-edge world-class university research (ASU Poly, ASU Biodesign), unrivaled pilot implementations by APS, and an array of entrepreneurs doing amazing work. Yet other regions such as San Diego, New Mexico, and even St. Louis are seen as algae leaders; Arizona isn't even on the map. The state could fund demonstration projects that enable researchers and entrepreneurs to connect, and that showcase Arizona's strengths in this area.
  • Explore innovative agricultural feedstock options that work in our climate. For example, researchers in AZ have suggested that former open pit mines in the state could be seeded with low-water-need crops that could be used as biofuels inputs. The state could support pilot projects that focus on agricultural approaches to biofuels that fit our unique circumstances, with a goal of not displacing food crops.
  • Support biodiesel co-ops. The biodiesel "homebrew" community -- individuals who collect WVO and convert it to biodiesel at home -- has been far in front of the commercial community in terms of getting clean-burning biofuels in tanks and on the road in Arizona. The independence, innovation and initiative of the homebrewers is admirable, yet there are some safety and other challenges associated with homebrewing. Co-ops can serve to balance interests, enabling the do-it-yourself ethos within a more manageable environment. Biofuels co-ops in Arizona have struggled for funding and regulator support, however. The state could fund a pilot project that demonstrates the value of co-ops for reducing homebrew-related risks and enabling grassroots-based innovation.
All of the ideas above focus on what DBI calls "sustainable regional biofuels" -- that is, creating biofuel locally, in a sustainable manner, and using it locally. The benefits of this approach are (1) environmental (cleaner air), (2) economic (keep more of the $4 BILLION that Arizonans spend on fuel in the state), and (3) security-related (e.g., make ourselves less vulnerable to a pipeline disruption).

The state of Arizona is currently spending $900,000 on the "Arizona Biofuels Conversion Program." The program focuses on subsidizing fueling-station owners or other businesses (e.g. fleet owners) who convert their fuel infrastructure to handle biofuels -- either E85 (ethanol) or biodiesel. The program provides up to 40% matching funds for a conversion project, up to a maximum of $30K. Another aspect of the program provides similar support for municipalities.

My reaction: eh. Given the big opportunities with biofuels, this program seems to be targeted at a narrow problem. Further, the benefits to Arizona appear modest: if this program leads to more stations carrying ethanol, for example, and more people start using it, that could help our local air quality problems. But, given that corn ethanol and soy biodiesel -- the primary types of biofuels that would be sold via the subsidized infrastructure for the foreseeable future -- are produced out of state, using processes that (arguably) cause some environmental and economic problems (e.g., excessive fertilizer run-off, displacement of food crops), it's not obvious that the net benefits of the program are that high.

I would have liked to see the program focus on fostering local production of sustainable biofuels. I believe that if we had a robust local supply, demand would follow. And if we had supply and demand, I think the infrastructure issues that are the focus of the program would potentially be unnecessary.

What would you do with $1 million?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Updated "Biodiesel 101" available

An updated version of Han Huth's amazingly comprehensive "Biodiesel 101: An Introductory Guide to Brewing and Using Biodiesel in Arizona" is available at This is an incredible free resource for the AZ homebrew community. You can support Hans' efforts by purchasing a "Grease for Peace" bumper sticker via his site.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Some upcoming events

There are several events coming up that might be of interest:

1. On Sunday, November 8th, SustainaBIL, an "unconference" modeled on the BIL Conference, will be held at ASU Skysong beginning at 11am. I had a chance to talk with with conference co-organizer Brian Shaler today, and it sounds like the day will be quite interesting and fun. The organizers describe the event as "an unconference for people changing the world in big ways. It's a place for passionate people to come together to energize, brainstorm, and take action." Show up and listen, or show up and plan to talk about your passions. Send email to if you have a topic you'd like to speak about.

2. The 4th Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference is coming up on November 12. DBI advisor Francine Hardaway is a principal organizer of this event. I attended last year and was extremely impressed with the energy in the rooms and the quality of the speakers, presentations and discussions. Highly recommended.

[SEE UPDATE BELOW] 3. ASU Technopolis is hosting an all-day workshop on November 13 "targets early-stage, first-time, writers of SBIR/STTR Program Phase I proposals, and is created for energy companies looking for grant funding. All government agencies will be covered, but special emphasis will be given to the Department of Energy. A review and discussion of various appropriate technology roadmaps will be included in the workshop." I suspect that this could be extremely valuable for some local biofuels companies. Details by phone 480-884-1804 or e-mail

[UPDATE: The Technopolis event has been postponed until after the 1st of the year.]

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Fuel Film to open Nationwide!

I never followed up with my review of Tickell's feature-length documentary, "Fuel." Let me cut to the chase: it's a must-see, and based on a press release at his website, it's opening nationwide this fall. More details here:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Regarding "Cash-for-Clunkers"

I'm pretty much on extended hiatus from Desert Biofuels stuff, although I've been making my weekly trek down to AZ Biodiesel to top off and fill a couple 5 gallon jugs. As long as B99 is $2.19/gal it's hard to get motivated to go through the hassle of making biodiesel at home. So thanks Dan!

What I have been doing (besides my two jobs, and life in general) is trading a lot of emails with two of my brothers-in-law, one of whom is conservative, one of whom is liberal. I'm the token independent.

Some of the "conversations" get pretty far afield, but just the other day I forwarded a quote from a great motorcycle blog called The Kneeslider (subtitle: Motorcycle News for Positive People -- how cool is that?!). It's regarding the recently passed "Cash-for-Clunkers" bill and it that pretty much sums up my views on the insanity coming out of Washington D.C.:

Frederic Bastiat once said, “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” Unfortunately, we are now living in this fictitious world, or at least, many people are trying to make it come true.

Note to politicians giving away our money: You look more foolish and cynical every day by constantly adding people and businesses to your list of political beneficiaries, trying to buy votes with our money. Stop it.

Note to people and businesses taking the money: When you tell everyone how beneficial these programs are, you sound greedy and shallow and you think people believe you. Stop it.

I have a simple idea, let’s all buy our own cars, trucks, motorcycles or anything else we want within the limits of what we can afford. Then companies can build products that people want to buy. There’s no government bureaucracy involved either so we can start immediately. Let’s try that.

Motorcycle Vouchers Proposed in Addition to Cash for Clunkers - A Bad Idea Gets Worse

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Solar charged electric motorcycle in Apache Junction

Just saw this on Gas 2.0: a (supposedly) fully electric, solar charged motorcycle. 50 mile range and 90 mph top speed. Right here in Apache Junction!

GreenFuel Technologies goes down...

The company that partnered with APS at the "Redhawk" facility to capture carbon dioxide from the power plant's emissions is going out of business.

We've often wondered what happened to the GreenFuel/APS algae pilot: now we know.

Getting the whole thing to run smoothly [...] was tougher than expected. GreenFuel could grow algae. The problem was controlling it. In 2007, a project to grow algae in an Arizona greenhouse went awry when the algae grew faster than they could be harvested and died off. The company also found its system would cost more than twice its target.

The closed photobioreactor model used by GreenFuel (and others) appears especially challenging in terms of up-front expense.

I recently posted a link to a paper by Jeff Hassania which discusses the sobering economics of algae.

A GreenFuel Technologies timeline is available at BiofuelsDigest.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Visit to XL Renewables

On Monday I had the opportunity to visit the XL Renewables algae production facility in Casa Grande, AZ and was deeply impressed by the progress they are making: among other things, I was able to leave with some sample algae that was a HUGE hit with the 7th grade class I spoke to about biofuels on Tuesday.

I particularly like the trench-based, farm-like model that XL pursues, as their low-cost approach seems like a promising way to address the difficult economic challenges that algae producers face. It was also great to speak with Mike Bellefuille and George McNeely of XL and hear about the hard-won lessons they are learning about growing algae at production scale -- they've had to navigate through a host of practical difficulties and now have invaluable experience (and lots of algae!) to show for it.

It's fantastic to see algae moving beyond just lab experiments and PowerPoint slides. Kudos to XL for meeting the "running code" test!

Mike Bellefuille and George McNeely

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nice review for Green Algae Strategy

Congratulations to Mark Edwards, whose book Green Algae Strategy: End Oil Imports and Engineer Sustainable Food and Fuel continues to receive some great reviews; see, e.g., this review at Celsias. Green Algae Strategy is available at and via free download on the downloads page (scroll down).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Desert Sweet Biofuels forum at ASU SkySong

At our recent workshop Professor Mark Edwards announced a forum that he is coordinating with Gary Woods and the team from Desert Sweet Biofuels, a commercial algae venture. The forum is planned for Friday, May 22 (not May 15, as initially announced) from 9am to noon, at ASU SkySong; the flyer for the event can be downloaded here.

Mark is planning to facilitate additional forums where different companies and organizations can do a "deep dive" on their particular technologies or vision (i.e., not constrained by the 5 minute format we insisted on for the Workshop). Please contact Mark if you'd be interested in presenting at such a forum. We're envisioning a monthly speakers series, picking up in the Fall.

Monday, May 4, 2009

More DPF/biodiesel news

Popular Mechanics has posted an article by Dave Hubbard explaining the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) / biodiesel incompatibility issue, and Jason Burroughs of DieselGreen Fuels has written up his experience with a 2009 VW TDI on biodieselSMARTER.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Economic viability of algae-based biofuels

Jeff Hassania of Diversified Energy Corporation in Gilbert, who recently presented some of this information at the 2nd Desert Biofuels Workshop, has published an editorial on the commercial viability of algae-based biofuels.

PDF format: Algae Biofuels Economic Viability: A Project-Based Perspective

Friday, April 24, 2009

2nd DBI Workshop summary

Francine Hardaway, a long-time friend of Desert Biofuels Initiative, has posted an excellent synopsis of the 2nd Desert Biofuels Workshop on her blog.

2nd Desert Biofuels Workshop and DPFs: an update

[Boy, say something in public and they want to hold you to it... Sheesh!]

We just had a fantastic 2nd Desert Biofuels Initiative Workshop at ASU SkySong; about 150 in attendance, and just a great energy and buzz during the 3 hours from 9a to 12p (plus post-workshop pizza lunch: score! Huge shout-out to Dan Rees and AZ Biodiesel for paying the pizza man).

Brad did an unbelievable job in organizing and playing emcee. The format was a series of fast-paced 5 minute "update" presentations, including many who presented last year, and some new faces. A webpage with the slides from today's event is already online.

I limited myself to some (mostly) extemporaneous remarks, and started by asking: "how many of you drove here today using biofuel?" As you might guess, even among this self-selected and highly motivated group, I would (generously) estimate a dozen hands went up.

When I got home I wrote up and expanded on my thoughts, put them into PowerPoint, and they're now also online. Kind of like a mulligan. Cool.

But it was my closing comment that got the most attention of my talk: I mentioned the ongoing issue with diesel particulate filters, which are being used in newer passenger vehicles with diesel engines. After expressing new-found respect, and even empathy, for the engine manufacturers, I noted that anyone who is running biodiesel in these newer engines should be aware that in-cylinder injection of fuel in a post-combustion process can experience problems, like oil dilution, high and/or premature wear, etc.

I summed up with something like: what are we going to do if we finally get widely available biodiesel, and then don't have any new vehicles that are compatible with it?

I've blogged about this issue previously, and I had several people approach me at the break to ask me about it, and later received a phone call of disapprobation from a prominent local biodiesel advocate.

I think I've been about as public an advocate of biodiesel as most people can be, without being a public figure, so I want to clarify that I'm talking about a very specific technical, but real, problem with newer engines and their biodiesel compatibility.

More on the "post-combustion" issue here:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

FUEL film extended in Scottsdale

Greg Piraino writes: "due to increasing ticket sales, FUEL will be extended until April 30th". So if you haven't had a chance to see Josh Tickell's film, go see it!

"Showing at Harkins Camelview 5 - several showings per day through April 30th unless extended. Tickets and more info is available at or"

Saturday, April 18, 2009

FUEL film follow-up

Dave posted a introduction to the Josh Tickell film "FUEL" which is now showing at Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale. I was invited to this Saturday's 7p show; afterward there was a short Q&A with Greg Piraino of Applied Engineering (who's helping with local promotion of the film), Greg Pitz of Logos Solar, and me. Friday's panel included Mark Edwards of

Saturday's audience included Dan Rees of AZ Biodiesel, who answered questions about getting biodiesel into local school buses, and James Towner of AZ and the Arizona Alternative Fuel Alliance.

The film itself was visually compelling and told Josh's personal story around biodiesel, with a liberal sprinkling of political muckraking. Tighter editing would help; toward the end of the film not much new is being said. Dorothy attended as my "guest" and Harkins got his $5.50 for Emily. All three of us were fidgeting in our seats by the 90 minute mark of the nearly 2 hour movie. The soundtrack was fantastic.

Many of the issues are more nuanced than the somewhat histrionic version Tickell presents, and some of the interviewee's proposed solutions would only exacerbate our current problems (new government mandates and subsidies are mentioned more than once as "obvious" solutions).

One of the reasons *why* we are in this pickle: we don't pay, at the pump, the true cost of petroleum (we pay in other ways, though: through higher taxes to pay for foreign entanglements, and Superfund cleanups, for example). These externalities subsidize our petroleum dependence, and prevent alternatives from competing on a level playing field. This is a *hard* problem for which lots of solutions have been proposed.

And it seems, at least to me, that few people want to acknowledge the obvious: we benefit greatly from cheap energy, in the form of, well, everything! Food, clothes, housing, ... Whatever the solution is it better be consistent with first principles. Is massive social engineering really required? To quote David Boaz: "A socialist system - or an interventionist state, which is just partial socialism - requires uniform solutions to problems rather than the myriad variety of solutions available through the market process." [1]

Here's a simple question: Are we willing to pay for what we use?

Despite its faults the movie achieves its main purpose: to inform and, more importantly, to motivate those rapidly diminishing number of persons who are unaware that we have serious and immediate issues with our continuing dependence on petroleum. It'll also be interesting to see if Tickell can generate enough buzz, and money, to fund a follow-up: something that provides a "deep-dive" into some of the proposed alternatives to oil.

After all, folks (especially those for whom this is all new) want to know: what do I *do*? Suggesting CFLs is good as far as it goes, but kind of misses the point. Using his own logic, if the situation is really as dire as Tickell suggests, then we *really* need to focus on the big wins.

But enough nit-picking: FUEL is *definitely* worth checking out.

[1] The Politics of Freedom: Taking on the Left, the Right, and Threats to Our Liberties, David Boaz, 2008

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The FUEL Film

For over 7 years I've been following the work of Josh Tickell. Most of you are familiar with his self-published book, "From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank," a glossy primer for homebrewers. Tickell took his lead from the women who, in the early 1990s, traveled the US on B100 (and possibly WVO; obtaining the film is elusive) and filmed a documentary entitled "The Fat of the Land." Some of Tickell's critics argue he failed to acknowledge this seminal work, unfairly accepting the title of "Pioneer" bestowed unto him by his followers. I mention this not to diminish Tickell's impact for Biodiesel awareness but to note there is some controversy (in fact, he deserves more credit than any other single person or entitiy, in my view - except maybe Rudy Diesel!).

Over the last few years, Josh parted ways with the homebrew community (accused of "selling out" and abandoning amateur scientists and engineers) to reach a broader audience, primarily through presentations and keynote addresses to farmers, policymakers, and investors. For years, he's been working on shorts and a feature-length documentary, which won accolades at independent film festivals worldwide.

Now, buoyed by the support of Hollywood icons like Peter Fonda, the film is building national momentum. In fact, it starts tomorrow in Scottsdale. I plan to attend the Saturday 7pm show, where Josh will be leading Q&A (according to his website:

Friday, April 3, 2009

2nd Annual Desert Biofuels Workshop - April 24, 2009

Our first Desert Biofuels Workshop, held in March of 2008, was an exciting event; attendee feedback included comments such as:

  • "...a watershed for AZ biodiesel..."
  • " ...never been at a conference with such broad representation, from corporate, to government, education, NGOs and home brewers..."
  • "...showed just how important this topic is..."
  • "...tremendously valuable..."

Details about last year's event can be found here (the "agenda" .pdf file includes links to the slides presented by each speaker).

For our second annual Desert Biofuels Workshop we hope to build on last year's success. Our primary goals for the Workshop are to (1) enable the diverse members of the Arizona biofuels community to connect with each other, and (2) explore how the $50 Billion in energy programs in the stimulus bill can advance biofuels in Arizona.

Confirmed presenters include (in alphabetical order):

  • John Andrews, Principal, Biofeedstocks Global
  • Andrew Ayers, CEO, Algae Biosciences
  • Ben Cloud, President & COO, XL Renewables
  • Jeff Collier, CEO, Energy Derived
  • Dave Conz, ASU
  • Colleen Crowninshield, Tucson Clean Cities Coalition [via videoconference]
  • Bob Eaton, President & CEO, AZBio
  • Gary Greenburg, Science Foundation AZ
  • Francine Hardaway, Stealthmode Partners
  • Jeff Hassannia, VP, Diversified Energy
  • Gene Leach and Jay Nance, Founders, Dynamite Biofuels Co-op
  • Gordon LeBlanc Jr., CEO, PetroSun
  • Victor Merino & Max Enterline, City of Phoenix
  • Kelly Patton or Dan Henderson, Town of Gilbert
  • Dan Rees, President, AZ Biodiesel
  • Bill Sheaffer, VP, Amereco Biofuels
  • Chris Walker (formerly of PinalJet and AZ Biofuels)
  • Gary Wood, CEO, Desert Sweet Biofuels
  • Neal Woodbury or John McGowen, ASU Biodesign Institute
  • other invitations pending

We'll also feature an analysis of biofuels-related funding opportunities (grants, loan guarantees and tax incentives) available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the "stimulus bill").

The Workshop will be held at ASU SkySong on Friday April 24th, 2009, on the first floor in the "Convergence" conference room. We'll have coffee and networking from 9:00 to 9:30am, and then begin the Workshop promptly at 9:30am. We'll end at 12 noon.

The Workshop is free and open to the public. Register at

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ignite Phoenix presentation

I had the pleasure of presenting a 5 minute overview of our Desert Biofuels Initiative history and vision at Ignite Phoenix #3 at the Tempe Center for the Arts on Feb. 25th:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Eric rocks the third grade

Eric gave a talk this week on sustainable biofuels to some elementary school students, and got some rave reviews from the teacher and volunteer coordinator, excerpted below. Their feedback was very kind, and nice for DBI to hear. Great job Eric!!! (I sense that he had as much fun as any of the students.)
  • "The students loved it"
  • "...said it was amazing"
  • "They particularly liked looking at and smelling the waste cooking oil and the refined biofuel that it was turned into."
  • "The algae farm sparked their imaginations"
  • "Your videos were informative and the perfect length for their attention spans."
  • "You were very patient with their many questions and spoke to the children as if they were adults, which they really appreciated."
  • "We are so grateful for your talk and for the work you are doing with alternative energy."
  • "The students loved it, and ... kept referring back to the things they learned later in the day."
  • "It's so good for kids to see the things that are being done to better the environment, and also to see some of the options, career-wise, found in various areas!"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Amereco B99 at Western States Petroleum

Western States Petroleum has been selling Amereco B99 for a while now but I hadn't been down to WSP since they added it. Since I was downtown already this morning I went by to fill up.

According to the folks I spoke to, WSP is now selling only Amereco B99 (which is made from WVO) at the B99 pump at 16th Ave and Grant, and the Iowa "Soy diesel" is only available to bulk customers.

Light duty B99 pricing on 1/28/09 was $2.19/gal.

Way to go Bill!

Meeting the Phoenix Biodiesel Task Force

Today Brad and I had a meeting at Phoenix City Hall with the newly formed "Bio-diesel Taskforce". Desert Biofuels Initiative was invited to come and give a 15 minute presentation about biodiesel and "homebrew".

After I received the email meeting invitation last week, we quickly enlisted the aid of several DBI "advisers" to get input on what to present and how to present it. Hans Huth in particular gave invaluable feedback on our slides (which we will post on our website). (Sidenote): Hans' manual is exactly the type of thorough, well-organized information that homebrewers can use to be safe and effective, and it gives real weight to the assersition that homemade biodiesel can be done responsibly.

Going into the meeting we didn't have any idea of what had already been discussed within the City bureaucracy, or how much impact we would have with our presentation. But it was great to be invited to participate.

As the various department reps assembled (Fire, Planning, Development Services, ...) we had a chance to review the minutes from the initial Biodiesel Task Force meeting, held Dec 12, 2008. At that meeting, according to the minutes, it was decided that "Planning will start drafting changes to their ordinance to prohibit bio-diesel manufacturing in residential zoning." Ugh! It appeared that we would be facing an uphill, and perhaps futile, slog.

Brad gave a short intro about DBI and then segued into my presentation about "homebrew". My purpose was: a) to accurately describe the basics of making biodiesel at home, b) to describe the advantages and challenges of homemade biodiesel, and c) to emphasize (as previously discussed here) that although it may not be reasonable to make large quantities of biodiesel at home (with "large" yet to be defined), it was certainly reasonable to allow some quantity of biodiesel to be made at home, and Phoenix residents should be at liberty to pursue their "homebrew" activities as long as they do not negatively impact their neighbors. We noted that the Town of Gilbert has already taken a "pro-homebrewer" stance which we find very encouraging, and we expressed hope that the City of Phoenix will follow their lead.

Whether or not we achieved these goals, we did have ample opportunity to answer the numerous questions that came up. And, in closing, we emphasized the need to continue dialog on this issue.

DBI will be hosting a "homebrewer safety" workshop at ASU SkySong where we hope to assemble homebrewers, home biodiesel processor manufacturers, biodiesel cooperatives, and various government stakeholders, the purpose being more constructive discussion on this topic.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

(Mis)reporting the problems with biodiesel

Gas 2.0 has an interesting update to the story you may have heard about Minnesota school buses being disabled by biodiesel:

Some Cold Truth About Biodiesel In Minnesota

School buses that left kids stranded in the cold, buses running a biodiesel blend per the Minnesota B2 mandate, were reportedly disabled by the biodiesel turning "gel-like".

The truth, it appears, is that the petroleum gunked up the fuel system, according to the National Biodiesel Board.


Coffee diesel: update

Ken Costello has done an initial oil extraction from the coffee grounds we procured from MonaLou Callery's Cup o' Karma. It turns out that the coffee grounds only contain about 10% oil, and the amount of hexane lost to evaporation exceeds the amount of oil extracted (at least in the small amounts used for his testing) by a factor of 4.5!

To get 15ml of coffee oil Ken lost 70ml of hexane during the extraction process (he recovered 230ml). Since hexane costs about $16 a gallon, plus shipping and hazmat fees, we probably aren't looking at a new feedstock for biodiesel! A lot of the hexane lost was residue in the coffee grounds that evaporated out when the grounds were dried, after extracting the oil. Residual hexane in the coffee oil also reduced the final amount of coffee oil.

Ken will be trying additional extractions to a) see if he can reduce the amount of hexane lost in processing, and b) scale-up the process to get us to a gallon of coffee oil to turn into biodiesel.

You can check out Ken's full write up of his experiment on his Chemistry Land website.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Coffee diesel

About a month ago Brad got a wild hair and posted a note to a small group of us about the recently published paper:

Spent Coffee Grounds as a Versatile Source of Green Energy
Narasimharao Kondamudi, Susanta K. Mohapatra, Mano Misra
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2008 56 (24), 11757-11760

Paraphrasing, he said: "Wouldn't it be cool if we could get used coffee grounds from a local coffee shop, extract the residual oil, turn it into biodiesel, and document the process via pictures, video and blog(s), from start to finish?"

Well, why not?

Ken Costello is a friend of Desert Biofuels and was intrigued by the idea. He agreed to do some small test batches to determine how much oil was present in the coffee grounds. MonaLou Callery, who operates Cup o' Karma in Mesa, agreed to collect coffee grounds for the project.

So yesterday I went down to Mesa and picked up two 5 gallon pails of coffee grounds and delivered them to Ken this morning. He'll be spending at least part of this afternoon trying to find out the percentage of residual oil in the grounds, and then a reasonably efficient way to scale up the extraction process so that we can get about a gallon of oil to turn in to biodiesel.

We'll post a full report, with pictures and maybe video, sometime soon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another "Europe only" diesel

How long, oh Lord, how long? HST used to write that a lot. It was the first thing that came to mind (again!) when I read that BMW is releasing a new turbo diesel that gets 54 MPG, is BMW's least polluting vehicle ever (and looks cool as hell), but it will, of course, ONLY BE SOLD IN EUROPE.

What is our friggin' problem? Doesn't anybody in a position of authority here in the US care that we are getting hosed? Are the EPA and our other "safety czars" really this intransigent?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008 Desert Biofuels Initiative Accomplishments

Happy New Year to all! We created the following summary of our accomplishments for 2008. Our heartfelt gratitude to the many, many people who made this possible. We look forward to an exciting 2009!

  • Formed as an Arizona non-profit corporation in April.
  • Submitted application for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.
  • Established tenancy at ASU SkySong.
  • Hired full-time Acting Executive Director.
  • Established advisory group that includes highly-respected biofuel experts, university professors, public relations and business professionals.
  • Developed and launched professionally-designed website at
  • Developed professionally-designed logo, courtesy of Brands By OVO.
  • Organized and held the first annual Desert Biofuels Workshop. Participant comments:
    • "...a watershed for AZ biodiesel..."
    • " ...never been at a conference with such broad representation, from corporate, to government, education, NGOs and home brewers..."
    • "...showed just how important this topic is..."
    • "...tremendously valuable..."
  • Regularly published blog with news and information relevant to the Arizona biofuels community (called "a must-read for the current happenings in biofuels in Arizona"). Biofuels expert Professor Dave Conz of ASU joined us as a regular blogger. Also maintained an e-mail discussion list with local biofuels community members.
  • Created three white papers researching and analyzing key issues:
    • Analysis of law and regulations applicable to Arizona biodiesel producers
    • Analysis of biofuels feedstocks relevant to Arizona (includes groundbreaking primary research concerning the volume of waste vegetable oil (WVO) feedstock in the Phoenix area and identifies potential linkages between WVO disposal issues and sewer blockages and overflows)
    • Analysis of biofuels incentive programs implemented in other states
  • Developed proposal for Algae Biofuel Demonstration plant:
    • Identified site location for the pilot plant on municipal property. Received an informal (non-binding) commitment from the municipality.
    • Completed detailed cost estimates and briefs for the project. Renderings of the pilot project are in progress.
    • Identified and are pursuing potential funding sources for the project.
    • Key project partners--including several private companies, the municipality and the university--are actively engaged with us in the exploration process.
  • Researched and developed materials demonstrating benefits of a WVO-based biodiesel to municipalities (focused on environmental, safety and water treatment issues). Presented to two local municipalities.
  • Developed proposal for WVO incentive program (goal: all local restaurant grease converted to biodiesel; would, e.g, displace 100,000 tons of CO2 from Valley air). Discussed with key stakeholders. Refining proposal based on input received and on results of feedstock analysis white paper research.
  • Facilitated tours of (a) ASU Algae Lab, (b) XL Renewables pilot algae facility, and (c) the Dynamite Biofuels Co-op for key stakeholders in the Arizona biofuels community.
  • Developed and launched IT infrastructure for algae biofuels wiki. Arranged for ASU intern to lead wiki project in 2009.
  • Presented our sustainable regional biofuels vision at (a) an algae biofuels conference hosted by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and (b) the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference. Participated in the Phoenix chapter of the Arizona Green Chamber of Commerce launch event. Participated in the CTO Forum on Green Technology hosted by Intel Corporation.
  • Met with and discussed our vision with numerous elected officials and other policymakers (U.S. Congress, AZ State Legislature, AZ Dept. of Environmental Quality, City of Phoenix, City of Scottsdale, City of Buckeye).
  • Organizing a homebrew safety “Roundtable” which complements the City of Phoenix in the creation of a homebrew safety taskforce.
  • Organizing an event to create biodiesel from used coffee grounds.
  • Established an affiliation with Professor Mark Edwards of ASU and developed as a sister site to our site. Built infrastructure for new site; launch planned in 2009. Green Independence is the global portion of DBI’s vision in the use of biofuel based on algae. Professor Edwards, author of Green Algae Strategy, leads our Green Independence effort.
  • Established a strong working relationship with the Arizona State University Technology Ventures Services Group. TVSG interns were the lead authors of our white papers on policy issues facing biofuel production.
  • Received private donations sufficient to cover 2008 expenses.
  • Submitted grant applications for 2009 operational funding, including (a) EPA Environmental Education Grant and (b) Echoing Green Fellowship Application.
  • Identified potential funding sources for future projects. This includes funding from private individuals, corporations, foundations, and governments.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Diesel Particulate Filters

Newer diesel vehicles being sold often have Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) which reduce particulate emissions by trapping them in a filter in the exhaust system. To prevent the filter from plugging, fuel is sent into the exhaust system at intervals to burn off the particulates.

There are a couple problems with this system:
  1. extra fuel is used to burn the particulates, which reduces overal MPG.
  2. extra CO2 emissions are released when burning up the particulates.
  3. Biodiesel, which vaporizes a higher temperature than petroleum diesel, doesn't function the same way in the system, and fuel ends up in the engine crankcase rather than clearing the DPF. [1]
If you have a newer diesel vehicle you may want to investigate these issues before running biodiesel. A good discussion of the issues, with links to more information, can be found here:

[1] It depends on how the system is designed, of course. The problem is caused by using the fuel injectors in the cylinder to place additional fuel into the exhaust gases. Since biodiesel doesn't vaporize per the system design, some of it stays in the cylinder and leaks past the piston rings into the crankcase. If the additional fuel is squirted into the exhaust pipe, and not the cylinder, then you bypass the problem of fuel getting into the crankcase. But that is more complex and maintenance intensive (additional dedicated fuel injectors).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Visit to potential demonstration algae biofuels site

We made a trip today to the site for our proposed algae biofuels demonstration plant. The land, near 19th Ave. and Lower Buckeye Road, just southeast of downtown Phoenix, is really perfect in many respects: great water and power infrastructure, close to downtown but zoned industrial, flat and sunny. The quality of the land coupled with some progress we're making on the grant funding side has me in a state of optimism and excitement with the project at the moment -- which, of course means that the next iteration of frustration and despair is just around the corner, but we'll take what we can get.  :-)

Pictured above (l-to-r) are Grey Fowles, who is helping us with some architectural renderings; Sam West, who is doing superb work as the project lead for DBI on this effort; Mike Bellefeuille of XL Renewables, a potential partner in the effort and a deep expert on algae; and Jeff Collier of Energy Derived, another potential partner and, like Mike, a deep algae expert.      

A couple of other photos of the proposed site below.

Monday, December 1, 2008

EPA releases biodiesel plant manual

This compliance assistance manual serves as a road map of information on federal environmental programs and federal, state, and local agency roles as they apply to parties interested in designing, building, and operating biodiesel manufacturing facilities.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Phoenix reportedly creates biodiesel task force

The Arizona Republic is reporting that City of Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has created a task force to "help educate residents on the hazards of skirting permits, codes and existing regulations" to produce homemade biodiesel:

Joe McElvaney, a Phoenix fire protection engineer, said the city requires a permit to handle the flammable and combustible materials used in biodiesel. But many home brewers ignore zoning regulations and waste-disposal requirements.

The story has also been picked up by the New York Times:

Saturday, November 22, 2008


We're in the process of re-launching our website and incorporating this blog into our site, and thus have been holding off on creating much new material on the blog hosted here. In the interim, though, I wanted to touch quickly on a few miscellaneous items:
  • We're thrilled to have Dave Conz doing some guest blogging with us. Our original "who's who" post on Dave is here.
  • The EPA released a new study "Environmental Laws Applicable to Construction and Operation of Biodiesel Production Facilities," found here. (hat tip: Gerry Darosa)
  • AZ Biodiesel's launch, and the sale of Amerco biodiesel at Western States Petroleum, is a Huge Friggin' Deal for those of us focused on sustainable regional biofuels in AZ. These two developments combined are really momentous.
  • We're looking forward to working with the new City of Phoenix task force on biodiesel homebrew safety. AZ Republic article here.
  • Anybody out there on Twitter? I was initially skeptical, but have been enjoying it recently. Many (well, some) of my posts are biofuels-related, if anyone is interested.
  • We had the great pleasure and privilege of speaking at the AZ Entrepreneurship Conference this past week. An amazing conference and fantastic group of people -- our deep thanks to the organizers for the opportunity.
  • Lastly, here's a photo of the AZ Biodiesel pump (taken this morning):

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

AZ Biodiesel update: B99 for $2.50/gal

From Dan Rees:

99.9% BioDiesel only $2.50 per gallon

Our pump is now open:
9-9 M-F and
9-1 on Saturday

No appointment necessary.

10% discount on 250 gallons or more and free delivery available. Deposit required for our barrels or totes.

Map of our pump location on our web site:


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Diesels I'd like to see here!

Although Dave's Mercedes-Benz is cool, no doubt, there are a couple current vehicles I really wish we could get our hands on in the US:

Toyota Hilux 4x4

Subaru Forester AWD

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dream Car

Last week, after years of searching, I bought my dream car. It is a 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300CD Turbodiesel coupe in Anthracite Gray. The turbo coupes have been in high demand in recent years for several reasons. First, they are the best looking diesel coupes ever imported into the US (The Isuzu Imark and the ultra rare Jetta coupe are the only others I know of), and the turbos were only available from 1982-1985. Second, they look really cool due, in part, to the lack of B pillars (when all the windows are down there are no vertical obstructions, contributing to a sleek look). Third, they are very durable. Mine has over 205,000 miles on it (my '79 300SD has 274,000 and is still going strong) and has been equipped with a Lovecraft WVO system. More next time.