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By Harry Eagar

MAUI, Hawaii (The Maui News, Aug. 30) – After nine years of being better for the environment but worse for the pocketbook, Maui company Pacific Biodiesel’s fuel now wins on both counts.

Maui’s comparatively few drivers who use diesel were paying just $2.59 a gallon Monday, 60 cents less than the prevalent price of gasoline. According to Hawaii

GasPrices.com, diesel fuel prices in Hawaii ranged from $3.22 to $3.28 per gallon.

Kelly King, marketing and communications director at Pacific Biodiesel, says this is the first time in Hawaii, and perhaps in the whole country, that an alternative fuel has sold for less at retail than petroleum.

Since 1996, when Pacific Biodiesel began refining used cooking oil on Maui, and later on Oahu, the vegetable fuel usually had been a dime or so more expensive than the fossil fuel alternative.

It had some other advantages, aside from being renewable, such as less stringent storage regulations, since it is biodegradable and not rated as a hazardous material.

But while the price of crude oil soared past $70 a barrel this week, the price of used cooking oil was stable.

Pacific Biodiesel President Bob King says he’s dreamed of the day when his version of diesel would be cheaper and customers would flock to it. However, now that the day has come, it is tinged with sadness because of the hardship and frustration that high gasoline prices are creating.

"It is a big lesson in our need to focus on conserving energy as well as using cleaner fuel," he says. "As we complain about rising fuel prices, we should definitely be thinking about driving more efficient vehicles and carpooling whenever possible."

Although biodiesel can be made from many types of vegetable or animal fat, the local supply is limited.

"We are definitely working to recover as much as we can," says Kelly King.

Pacific Biodiesel harvests the leavings of Norwegian Cruise Line ships, and now that there are two of them here, that adds 600 to 800 gallons of raw material a week.

In its quest for used restaurant grease, the company is sweeping Kauai and the Big Island where "there is a lot of illegal dumping," says Kelly King.

The business has a number of fleet customers, including Maui County and a new one, SpeediShuttle, which just took delivery here of seven Sprinter passenger vans with diesel engines.

Everett Peacock, SpeediShuttle’s vice president for operations and development, says: "We wish we didn’t have to use any petroleum."

He plans to install his own dedicated biodiesel fueling systems at both Maui and Big Island baseyards, for a total of 11 diesel vans.

Kelly King says "it has been a real concern" to manage demand because of limited supply.

Pacific Biodiesel has never had to limit drive-up sales at its retail pumps in Kahului, and it does not want that to happen now.

Kelly King says that through September, she will not be signing up any new customers to make sure "we can always serve the ones we have."

After that, when she has a better handle on demand under the new circumstances, she expects to resume business as usual.

According to the Department of Energy, the nationwide average price of petroleum diesel Monday was $2.59.

August 31, 2005

The Maui News: www.mauinews.com

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