Governor starts rural tour by topping off with Bently Biodiesel

Gov. Jim Gibbons gave Bently Biofuels biodiesel a whiff, but didn't show any interest in taking a drink on Monday during a tour of the Minden plant.

The biodiesel plant was the first stop on the governor's rural tour. He also topped off the tank of his bus with 8 gallons of fuel made out of used vegetable oil at $3.50 a gallon.

Gibbons and first lady Dawn were greeted by Minden industrialist Don Bently and State Assemblyman James Settelmeyer.

Bently Biofuels Co. general manager Carlo Luri said that during his first week on the job in 2002 Bently came to him and said the world would soon have a problem due to the scarcity of oil.

"We're going to grow our own fuel," Luri said Bently told him when asked what they could do about it.

While they've tried other sources for oil, including canola, used vegetable oil has so far been the most economical source.

Luri said Bently is paying 40 cents a gallon for used oil, whereas fresh oil would cost about $3.50 a gallon, as much as the cost of the fuel.

Between 200 and 300 people regularly fuel up at the biodiesel pumps at Bently Biofuels, located off Buckeye Road.

Luri touted the benefits of biodiesel to the governor.

He said a University of Nevada, Reno, environmental science professor fuels up with biodiesel, which burns cleaner than petroleum based fuels.

"He went in to get his vehicle smogged and they thought he was fooling them because the emissions were so low," Luri said.

Biodiesel is non-toxic and biodegradable, according to Luri. He said he's tasted it, but would prefer not to drink it.

"But then I wouldn't want to drink vegetable oil, either," he said.

The fuel is being used in Nevada mines where it has reduced carbon emissions by 80 percent.

One issue is that the fuel crystallizes at about 30 degrees, which means it must be heated or blended to remain liquid during the winter.

Luri said a 50-50 mix with petroleum based diesel would keep the fuel liquid on all but the coldest of days.

Gibbons toured the biofuels laboratory, where the company tests fuels from all over the country. Luri said 70-80 biofuel plants send samples to Minden to be tested.

Luri told Gibbons that in many places 20 percent biodiesel is being mixed with 80 percent regular diesel to reduce the amount of oil that has to be imported.

Gibbons suggested that an 80-20 mix favoring biodiesel might be a better plan.

Bently Biofuels is working on several sources for mass to make fuel, including growing algae to clean waste water and then turning the algae into fuel.

The plant is supported by solar panels, which create electricity and heat water.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to make biodiesel if you're going to use petroleum to do it," Luri said.

Gibbons said he supports tax breaks for alternative fuels to encourage their use in Nevada.

Gibbons will return to Minden for the three-day Sustainable Living & Renewable Energy Roundup Aug. 10.

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