By Edwin Tanji

WAILUKU, Maui (The Maui News, Dec. 1) - The Paia Chevron Service Station has become the first Chevron station in the country to offer a biodiesel blend to its customers - while offering it at the lowest price of any fuel for motor vehicles on Maui.

The "B20" fuel is selling at $2.29 a gallon – higher than the average cost of regular gas on Oahu but attractive to drivers on neighboring Maui.

It is a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel fuel that qualifies for both state and Maui County fuel tax exemptions.

Gas prices in Hawaii this week were as high as $2.39 on Kauai to a low of $1.88 on Oahu. The average cost of gas in Hawaii was $1.91, compared with the national average in the U.S. of $1.47.

"The real heroes are our state Legislature and Maui County Council," said Alec McBarnet, president of Maui Oil Co. and operator of the Paia Chevron. "Their foresight and commitment to biodiesel road tax exemptions have made it all possible to actually offer B20 at a competitive price."

The biodiesel is produced by Pacific Biodiesel, the Maui-based company that developed the process for converting waste cooking oil into diesel fuel. While it has been generally accepted as a suitable replacement for petroleum diesel, Pacific Biodiesel President Bob King said he still has more production than he has market for the environmentally friendly fuel.

For motorists with diesel-powered vehicles, there may have been some concerns about switching to the green fuel, including the inconvenience of having only one station in Kahului where the fuel can be bought.

Having the biodiesel blend available at a public pump, and the low price, should help to sell the B20 fuel, King said.

"B20 still offers significant environmental benefits and increased engine lubricity, and now it is available on weekends and evenings," he said.

He credited McBarnet and Maui Oil for agreeing to offer to carry the blend at a competitive price.

"The goal is to expand the market for biodiesel," he said. "We're making it easier for the customer to use the fuel."

King said Pacific Biodiesel produces about 12,000 gallons of biodiesel every month from recycled cooking grease on Maui. He also has put up a plant on Oahu that is producing 20,000 gallons of biodiesel monthly.

"We actually produce a little more fuel stock than we have customers. We had more product than market and we needed to expand the market," he said.

The key to the B20 product is the tax exemptions - a 50 percent exemption from state fuel taxes and a 100 percent exemption from Maui County. The exemptions are the first in the nation for biodiesel, according to Joe Jobe, executive director of the National Biodiesel Board. Jobe was on Maui in August to present an award to Maui County for its support of biodiesel.

December 2, 2003

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