Former Chef Now Cooks Up Biofuels

October 31, 2008 by  
Filed under Biofuels, Blog, Cooking Oil, Ecopreneurs, Front Page, Iowa

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Filling the biofuel tanks. Photo: Steve Fugate

Filling the biofuel tanks. Photo: Steve Fugate

Steve Fugate, biofuels ecopreneur and co-owner of Green World Biofuels, talks with Joe Hennager of Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL).

BPGL: Steve, I’ve known you for about 10 years as a chef at Iowa City’s best-known local diner. I know everyone around here asks you this, but what made you give that up and get into biofuel production?

FUGATE: I had been making biodiesel for a couple of years and had begun conducting workshops to educate people. I quickly grew tired of troubleshooting the inadequate equipment that was on the market. My wife, Wende, and I had extraordinary success producing our own biofuel and I had expertise in acquiring waste cooking oil from restaurants. So, I decided to pursue marketing an effective turnkey biodiesel production system and educating the fuel- and education-hungry masses full time.

BPGL: Tell me about your production system for people to make their own biodiesel.

Green World Biofuels production facility. Photo: Courtesy Green World Biofuels

Green World Biofuels production facility. Photo: Steve Fugate

FUGATE: We have one model, the Ester Machine, that has proven to be the perfect balance between efficiency, time and cost. The Ester Machine is capable of producing 80 gallons in 10 hours or about 24,000 gallons per year at full capacity. We’ve found that smaller batch sizes increase cost and time per gallon. We also sell a production enhancer, The Double Dry System, which triples the production capacity of the Ester Machine for a combined output of 80,000 gallons per year.

BPGL: How much would someone have to invest to begin making their own fuel?

FUGATE: The Ester Machine retails for less than $8,000 and is the most complete system on the market today.

BPGL: Obviously, a potential customer will be someone who is driving a diesel vehicle. Who is your typical customer?

FUGATE: We have an extremely diverse customer base that includes contractors, cooperatives, a trucking company, a university, government agencies, farmers and individuals. Some use their systems a couple of times a month, and one produces 2,000 gallons of biofuel per week. They are all inquisitive and eager to do something right now to reduce their fuel bill.

BPGL: The price of fuel is going down right now. How is this affecting your sales?

Green World Esther Machines ready for shipment. Photo: Steve Fugate

FUGATE: Right now, gasoline is $2.19, Diesel $3.25, and biodiesel is around $4.00. The gold rush mentality that we saw has cooled considerably but that is okay with us. The folks that are still interested tend to be the more forward thinking, intelligent folks we have always sought. Desperate people make poor decisions and, with the pressure off, now is an excellent time to get busy and lock in the feedstock that we are dependent on.

BPGL: How cheaply can you produce a gallon of biodiesel? How many gallons of fuel consumption, at today’s prices, will a customer of yours have to burn to pay off one of your systems? What’s the average person’s return on investment (ROI)?

FUGATE: I hate to give simplistic answers to complicated questions, but the cost of the chemicals and electricity were about $.86 per gallon last month. The cost of the oil, collecting it, and the value of your time are highly variable. I was saving over $3.00 per gallon this spring. At that rate, a machine can pay for itself in a couple of months. We offer a great deal of support to our customers in achieving high levels of efficiency and reducing total cost of ownership.

BPGL: What do you think is the most important issue harming our planet right now?

FUGATE: The most pressing issue that we can actually change right now is the absolutely staggering amount of energy that we use. Our very existence and the American way of life is put at risk by our unwillingness to reduce consumption, recycle, conserve or even fully utilize the resources we have paid for. European power plants are twice as efficient as ours, and the average citizen uses half the power we do. Thirty percent of all cars on the planet are in the US! Our economy is based on cheap petroleum and with the cost of oil up several hundred percent, we are at serious risk of driving off the proverbial cliff.

A customer's truck is loaded with a new supply of biofuel from Green World Biofuels. Photo: Steve Fugate

BPGL: Why should people produce their own biodiesel? What difference will it make? Why should we care? Pretend I am McCain. Convince me.

FUGATE: Producing your own biodiesel from post-consumer oil not only reduces foreign oil imports but also allows you to keep the money not spent at gas stations at work in the community. We are shipping trillions of dollars to OPEC nations. Exxon profited $15 billion last quarter! Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to keep some of those dollars in our own pockets? Don’t expect our government to do anything meaningful; it’s up to each of us to begin to do what we can. WE must start now if we hope to get anywhere.

Joe Hennager

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Bioneers TALLGRASS Conference

October 29, 2008 by  
Filed under 2008, Iowa

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Learn how to improve the health of the planet in Grinnell, Iowa, October 31 – November 2, 2008, at the Bioneers TALLGRASS Conference.

The conference “will feature live plenary speakers and workshops on a range of topics, from renewable energy and sustainable farming, to art, design, and social activism.” BIONEER plenary speakers will be broadcast live by satellite from California.

Local speakers include Steve Fugate of Green World Biofuels; Brad Young, who teaches about natural building; Lonnie Gamble, founder of Abundance Ecovillage and Big Green Summer; Mark Kreskowick of Interfaith Power and Light; Jerry Young Bear, speaking about Nature and the Folklore of the Mesqwaki People; and more.