TELLURIDE — Around here, Charris Ford is known as the Granola Ayatollah of Canola. It's a title he earns every time he cranks up his 1980 International Scout truck, a vehicle that runs on grease, all of it drained from restaurant deep fryers in Telluride.
Ford's truck is fueled with biodiesel, a fuel that can be made out of virgin oils from plants such as soybeans, corn, canola, coconuts or peanuts or by filtering and processing used vegetable oils from restaurant grease.
He says his mission is to save America from its petroleum addiction. "If we made it through the ice age, we can make it through our energy crisis," he said.
Biodiesel is not new. When Rudolph Diesel described plans for his engine in 1893, he believed he had designed something that farmers could fuel themselves using peanut oil. The U.S. produced about 15 million gallons of biodiesel last year and is expected to produce 20-25 million gallons this year.
Even so, biodiesel comprises a tiny fraction of the 55 billion gallons of diesel fuel consumed annually in the United States. Production is expected to grow, however. The U.S. Energy Department believes that current soybean production, combined with waste grease, could produce about six billion gallons of biodiesel annually.
Ecology Center Director Dave Williamson calculates that the daily waste grease of a single fast-food restaurant could fuel one of his trucks for its daily recycling collection rounds. Williams is convinced, too, that biodiesel burns cleaner, emitting about 84% less particulate emissions than conventional diesel.
It's not perfect, however. It costs around $2 a gallon and it coagulates in cold weather so vehicles must be retrofitted with a fuel heating system. And it does emit about the same amount of nitrogen oxide, one of the principle components of smog, as traditional diesel.
With two partners, Ford collects used vegetable oil and refines it in a barn. It's a simple process that removes the natural glycerin and leaves a petroleum-like fuel. Their plant can produce up to 25 gallons of 'go-juice" a day, enough for all three men to run their vehicles.
Says Ford," If we just keep taking what The Man's got for us, we're not going to be making any big moves. Biodiesel is a powerful message that we can send to oil companies and car companies and our fellow citizens. Alternative fuel is the wave of the future — if we're going to have a future."
Ford's truck is equipped with a Heinz A-1 cardboard air freshener. "If you've got french fries, you've got to have ketchup," he said. "Well, actually, it smells like coconut."
PUEBLO — A Sinclair station that was built sometime in the 1950s has been sold and had to be razed and removed so a branch of the Canon National Bank can be built on the site.
But the sale could not be closed until owner Ken Dent removed the three underground storage tanks. That took some doing. While workers worked, a slew of inspectors watched to be sure the job was done strictly by the book.
Brandice Flowers, owner of All Phase Environmentalists and an employee of the state oil and gas division, took measurements of everything from the size of the pit surrounding the tanks to samples of pipe and other riggings. State Inspector Charles Simmons was there too as was Pueblo Fire Department Inspector Joe Fitzgerald, watching to be certain the tanks were safe to transport out of the city. Even Sunset Plaza, which adjoins the Dent property, had an environmental inspector watching and testing everything.
It took dry ice to neutralize any remaining gasoline before the tanks could be pulled from the earth and loaded on trucks. After 90 pounds of dry ice evaporated in an 8,000 gallon tank, workers had to round out another 80 pounds to pour into the middle of it. The dry ice vaporizes as carbon dioxide which is inert and makes the tank cavity safe for transportation.
All that took place in the morning. By noon, it took another 80 pounds for that tanks and 120 pounds for a second 8,000 gallon tank. The rule of thumb, Flowers said, is 10 pounds for each 1,000 gallon capacity of the tank. But as the temperature rose, it took another 10 pounds.
Finally, the inspectors allowed Spaccamonti Excavating to pull the tanks out of the ground and load them on flatbed trucks. All that was left of the service station was a big hole in the ground.
DENVER — If you didn't know your health could be damaged by pumping your own gasoline, lawyers in 16 Colorado cities will tell you about it.
The damage can come from breathing gasoline vapors while filling a car's tank, the lawyers say. It can be irritating to the lungs and irritation to the lining of the stomach. Exposure to high levels of gasoline may also cause harmful effects to the nervous system.
The lawyers advise you to see a doctor if you have been harmed. And, they point out, "It may be important to contact an attorney who can help you protect your legal rights."
At the website of injuryboard.com, lawyers are offering to evaluate related cases free of charge — on contingency.
FORT COLLLINS — Police here have charged a 30-year-old Fort Collins man in conjunction with nine area robberies of service stations, convenience stores and small businesses. The robberies occurred from late December 2002 to late February 2003.
Travis Shawn Shepard was arrested on February 25, 2003 for attempted aggravated robbery to a Texaco station and convenience store. As part of the investigation, he was later charged with eight additional counts of aggravated robbery.
In most incidents, Shepard entered the businesses where a female clerk was working along between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., displayed a knife, and demanded money. No one was injured in the robberies.
DENVER — A new web page informs motorists where to find the lowest gasoline prices in each city. It also lists the stations where the highest prices are charged.
The coloradogasprices.com site encourages service station managers to add their names to the list. "When you enter a gas price into the above, you are assisting in the fight against high gasoline prices in Colorado," it says. "Together we can work to promote competition and drive down the retail price of gasoline."
Originally published in the October 2003 issue of the O&A Marketing News.
Copyright 2003 by KAL Publications Inc.
Serving the 13 Western States, the World's Largest Gasoline, Oil, Fuel, TBA and Automotive Service Market