Paid to be green
Local biodiesel company receives federal money
Bently Biofuels Company, LLC (BBC) has produced and sold biodiesel fuel out of Minden since 2005 as a green alternative to traditional petroleum fuel. And since 2009, USDA Rural Development has been supporting this company through their Advanced Biofuel Payment Program.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a few weeks ago that this program paid out $14 million in fourth quarter base payments and incremental payments to 162 producers nationally.
The funding for this program is part of the 2008 Farm Bill, and producers apply annually for the program. Their applications are reviewed by Mark Williams, Nevada’s Energy Coordinator of USDA Rural Development. Producers that qualify are paid quarterly a base payment that depends on their production in comparison to all participants nationally and an incremental payment, if they qualify, for increases in production from the previous year. This program will end, unless continued by another Farm Bill, on Sept. 30.
BBC’s payment included a base and incremental payment, totaling 17,362 dollars. Biodiesel of Las Vegas, the only other Nevada participant, received a payment of $5,400.
Although Williams stated that, in comparison to participants around the country, both companies in Nevada are “fairly small producers,” the payment has still helped BBC to grow.
“It’s definitely allowed us to invest in our infrastructure,” Carlo Luri said. “We’re actually aggressively expanding our oil collection efforts. In the past, we were mostly down here in Douglas County and Carson Valley collecting cooking oil, and in Lake Tahoe. We’re actually now spending a lot of time going up to Reno collecting oil and signing up more restaurant accounts.”
Luri is the former General Manager of BBC—last month he became the Director of Business Development in BBC’s parent company, Bently Enterprises—and he stated that the payments have not changed dramatically over the years but have steadily increased. Luri stated that since BBC is never sure what they will be receiving, if anything, from this program and because it is not like other grants they may apply for, there aren’t specific costs it goes toward.
“It would be nice to say that we took that money and we bought computers or something, but it’s really money that goes into keeping the business operating,” Luri said. “And I would say 90 plus percent of all the money we spend is money spent very locally. Almost all of our business takes place within 200 miles of the biofuels plant, and that’s pretty rare for any kind of business. It’s certainly unheard of in the fuel industry, the petroleum industry.”
He said he believes that their process of making biodiesel from local restaurant’s used cooking oil is hard to find fault with and that he believes it has done, and will continue to do, a great thing for the local economy.
“This was a waste product they had,” Luri said. “They can’t put that oil in their drains, so it’s something they had to pay to have transported away from their site. And now there’s a whole biofuels industry out there more than willing to come to their restaurant, provide them a bin and then pay them to recycle the oil. And they know that that oil is going to offset some of our petroleum usage.”