At the Lake: South Tahoe sees its first biofuel station |

At the Lake: South Tahoe sees its first biofuel station

Provided by the Tahoe Daily Tribune

Roadrunner Gas and Liquor has brought alternative fuels to South Lake Tahoe’s mainstream with the opening of a public biodiesel pump in Meyers this week.

Although use of the card-locked pump requires registration with the state of California, the application is brief and the card comes in the mail after three to four days, according to the pump’s first customer, Geoff Clarke, co-owner of Natural Energy Designs, Inc., a South Lake Tahoe based green building and remodeling company.

“The beauty is, once you get your card, the pump is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Clarke, who bought 12.5 gallons of biodiesel for his work truck on Monday afternoon.

Roadrunner is currently offering a B99 blend (99 percent Biodiesel, 1 percent petroleum-based diesel) at $3.50 per gallon, with a 20 cents per gallon discount for construction industry professionals.

A B20 blend (20 percent Biodiesel, 80 percent petroleum-based diesel) will be offered during the winter months. The B20 blend is necessary for South Lake Tahoe’s winter because pure biodiesel coagulates at approximately 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It’s about the same price as regular diesel right now, but the environmental benefits are so much better,” Clarke said. “I’d pay four or five bucks a gallon.”

The price of biodiesel has been driven up in recent years due to cost increases in the vegetable oils and alcohol used in its production, according to Carlo Luri, general manager of Bently Biofuels in Minden.

A vegetable oil derivative, biodiesel is biodegradable, renewable, nontoxic, and its use leads to “substantial reductions” of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter when compared to emissions from regular diesel, according to the California Energy Commission.

“It looks just like water,” said Mike Murphy, owner of the Meyers gas station, “It has very little smell; it’s really kind of cool.”

Biodiesel can be used in most unmodified diesel engines, although the fuel may damage hoses in older vehicles, according to South Lake Tahoe biodiesel user Cory Hannaford.

The owner of Sierra Sustainable Builders, Hannaford also recommended a gradual switch from traditional diesel to biodiesel blends over a period of weeks to ease engine wear.

Murphy started looking into turning the station’s back pump into a biodiesel pump, after he bought the station in October with his wife, Jaqueline Wollman.

“We’ve always been concerned about renewable fuels and limiting our impact on the environment,” Murphy said.

Murphy found a California provider in LC Biofuels, L.L.C., which produces approximately 1,000 gallons of biodiesel a day at its Richmond production plant from 100 percent canola oil.

Applications for cards to operate the Meyers pump can be found at

Based on numerous accounts, Rick Dean Hixenbaugh was someone you would have liked to have known.

And many people did.

Hixenbaugh lived in South Lake Tahoe for 30 years as a family man with a wife of 26 years and three children. He was a contractor, running a business specializing in remodeling that he used to infuse his creative talents.

The 54-year-old fell from a 1971 Bahama sailboat Sunday evening as it was preparing to enter the channel leading to Tahoe Keys Marina around 6.

A wave struck the boat and the next thing the occupants knew Hixenbaugh was in the water. A life jacket was tossed close to him by his daughter, Chrystal, who dove in the water in a rescue attempt.

It seemed like an instinctive move for Chrystal, 25, a high school swimmer who is in nursing school.

She got her hands on her father but was unable to keep him at the surface. Another life jacket was off its mark by a greater margin. As the sailboat turned, Rick went under and Chrystal was pulled from the 42-degree water made choppy from strong winds.

Despite the rescue attempts, an athletic lifestyle and an invulnerability to cold, Hixenbaugh succumbed to Lake Tahoe.

His body was recovered by search crews Monday, a few minutes before 3 p.m. and a couple hundred yards from the channel’s entrance.

An autopsy will likely be completed this week.

Hixenbaugh’s death left an assortment of family and friends devastated.

“He has so many friends … A lot of people know Rick,” said his wife, Linda.

Descriptions painted a man with various interests fiercely dedicated to his family, consisting of Linda and three children: E.J., Chrystal and Shauna.

“He was all about taking care of us,” Linda said.

“He was just nonstop. He gave more than anything,” E.J. said. “It wasn’t his time.”

The Hixenbaugh house was decorated with Rick’s paintings in oils, watercolors and acrylics. He would read several books at a time and recently reveled in a bounty of classic books purchased at a garage sale, Linda said.

His death left good friend Gregg Waugh perplexed.

“I don’t get it. I don’t understand,” Waugh said. “He could have swam in. He was a good athlete.”

Waugh recalled when Hixenbaugh wore only shorts, no shoes or shirt, while taking a walk in the snow.

“He was impervious to cold,” Waugh said.

Hixenbaugh cooked. He had a passion for wine. He hiked. He scuba dived. He attended music concerts and University of Nevada football games, said a long-time friend, Paul Andrew.

“He’s always smiling. He loved people and loved his family,” Andrew said. “He’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever known.”

Andrew, Hixenbaugh and another friend went sailing Thursday on the 1971 Bahama for a few hours. The friends were looking forward to participating in Wednesday’s beer-can sailboat races.

The sailboat was owned by Anthony Sanfilippo, a 28-year-old Reno resident. Sanfilippo, Chrystal’s boyfriend, was giving the boat to Hixenbaugh, who was reportedly giving lessons on sailing Sunday.

Sanfilippo’s 10-year-old son was also on the boat.

The group had been out on the lake for roughly two hours before heading into the marina.

Linda said she heard her husband didn’t move when he was in the lake. He didn’t swim toward the life jacket, she said. She was told he screamed for help. She wondered if he might have had a heart attack. Maybe he hit his head on the boat when he fell. Had the jeans he was wearing weighed him down?

“He wouldn’t move,” Linda said. “It just wasn’t like him. Something was wrong.”

Andrew remembered the celebration for Hixenbaugh’s 40th birthday. As a fan of the Three Stooges, Hixenbaugh was greeted with a cream pie to the face.

“He just laughed and said, ‘No wonder the Stooges had so much fun,'” Andrew said.