Generating Innovation

For Dean Price, owner of Red Birch Convenience Stores, canola oil is more than something you’d find on the shelf at a supermarket. It’s a self-contained local energy industry waiting to happen, and Price thinks he has a system to jump-start it.

He plans to work with local farmers to grow and buy canola seed, turn the oil from the seed into biodiesel fuel at a facility at his Red Birch Convenience Store in Bassett Forks, Va., and sell it to truckers across the road at his diesel pumps, according to the Martinsville (Va.) Bulletin. "We grow it, we make it, and we sell it," he said.

Price has put up signs touting his plan at the station, and to prove how easy the Virginia canola strain he is using is to grow, he planted a patch of it there. When showing it off recently, he picked up one of the leaves and ate it to demonstrate how natural it is. Price and his partners started Red Birch Energy to produce biodiesel about a year ago. He said several factors got him interested in the project, not the least of which is America’s dependence on foreign oil, the report said.

With foreign oil, 70 cents of every dollar goes to countries the U.S. is in conflict with, Price said. In fact, the American consumer pays for such conflicts twice, both in military spending and in the higher fuel prices they cause. But for every dollar spent on local biodiesel, he said, 90 cents will stay in the area, and the rest will go to taxes.

Biodiesel also is supported by the federal government, Price said. He expects to get a $1 per gallon federal tax credit. What Price expects to sell will be a 20% mix of biodiesel and 80 percent regular diesel. It will be produced through a chemical process in six large plastic tanks in a facility near the convenience store. He said he expects to start within 30 to 45 days, producing 1,000 gallons of biodiesel a day and being able to produce more in the future. Because the canola crop will not be in until June, production will start with waste oil from restaurants, which also can be made into biodiesel.

Price said that because of the money he will save on costs such as transportation, he should be able to sell the biodiesel for between five and 10 cents less a gallon than regular diesel and still improve profits. Regular diesel was selling Sunday at the Red Birch for $3.29 per gallon, the report said.

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