Wednesday, January 28, 2009

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.

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