Saturday, November 17, 2007

I'm off to Wisconsin.

The folks over at Paradigm Sensors were nice enough to fly me out as a speaker later this week for the Wisconsin Clean Cities Coalition. The topics are higher blend adoption (I'm talking B99 by the way) and quality assurance.

If you are curious about this summit check out more at the Wisconsin Clean Cities Coalition website. Or better yet check out the Wisconsin Biodiesel Blog. Its always fun to look at other parts of the U.S. and their programs, efforts, and successes.

Wisconsin background info.

The Good: One of the largest soy growing states in the Union. Wisconsin has an actual Wisconsin Biodiesel Assocation putting a face on the emerging industry. There is no soy crushing in the state though a little refining. The largest user of soy in Wisconsin is for soy-sauce and there is a potential complement between biodiesel and soy-sauce manufacturing (though I don't know the facts about this).

The Could do Better: There is a Milwaukee Biodiesel Coop (though its shut right now from what I understand dealing with Fire Code upgrades). A 45 million gallon a year project just got placed on hold because the soy prices made the bank withdraw support (though I disagree with this analysis but I quote it directly). Also, the largest biodiesel user in the Milwaukee region (from what I'm told) is the city of Milwaukee fleet which has gone forward to B10.

The Needs of Wisconsin: More voluntary adopters of higher blends of biodiesel from local sources (both feedstock and refining). A focus on commercial adoption for large industrial users currently paying extremely high prices for off-road boiler fuels, diesels, and other dirtier CO2 emitters. A regulatory environment that gives biodiesel coops and B99 retail offerings on opportunity to exist.

My Goal: Get a few B99 experiments willing to go forward before I leave. A tall order for only having three days but I've seemed to get lucky in the past. My favorite question to ask when told B99 is too risky or shouldn't be done. "What vehicles do you have exiting service? Those are the ones you should field B99 on."

Being that many fleets have vehicles that are expensed and will be sold for a negligible return on the books this is an easy sell. The redder the neck and greasier the fingernails the more likely a fleet manager is to do it. Especially if they have a racing or custom background. This sales tactic is literally almost a confidence game (though for a good cause). The older the vehicle the better it runs on B99.

Also - on a technology geek note - check out Paradigm Sensors hand held biodiesel specifier. They tell me a beta is due out soon (any day now) and I can't wait to see these in the field. These handhelds will take those of us who need to receive railcars of dubious origin occasionally a tool much farther evolved than the old "pHlip" test.

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