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The fuel of the future 

A new club hopes to bring biodiesel to SLO

By allowing people to ship large quantities of goods around the world, petroleum oil makes the comforts of the industrialized world possible. It’s the life-blood of our economy, but there are a few drawbacks: namely the disastrous spills, the air pollution, and the fact that most of the billions of dollars we spend on oil goes overseas to countries that don’t necessarily love us.

click to enlarge GET WITH THE GREEN PROGRAM :  Mike Brown, a board member for the American Biodiesel Buyer’s Club, collects his own fry oil, which will be used to make biodiesel. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • GET WITH THE GREEN PROGRAM : Mike Brown, a board member for the American Biodiesel Buyer’s Club, collects his own fry oil, which will be used to make biodiesel.

If only there were an alternative fuel that was just as powerful as diesel but produced 57 percent less greenhouse gas and was non-toxic when spilt (according to the Environmental Protection Agency), something that could be made in America from otherwise useless waste and worked in today’s engines with little or no modifications necessary—oh, there is? Well, jumpin’ gee whillikers, why don’t we just use that?

“The main reason biodiesel isn’t more popular is the basic lack of access. The second reason is fear,” said Margo Camilleri, president of the American Biodiesel Buyers Club, a nonprofit based in Morro Bay. “It’s new and kind of scary, and people don’t get it. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”

Some people confuse biodiesel with unpopular ethanol (they’re not at all the same thing) or worry that this new fuel will ruin their engines. Camilleri, with a thick binder packed full of government reports, statistics, and regulations, listed a litany of benefits associated with biodiesel, and explained that, as an industrial strength cleanser, it will actually remove build-up from fuel lines. She said this often results in clogged fuel filters when the transition to biodiesel is made, but after that, the trucks are fine.

“We’re talking about an American made, sustainable fuel that lowers emissions, reduces the rates of asthma and cancer, and saves lives,” Camilleri said.

A commercial facility in Gonzales, Calif., can convert old fry oil into this miracle fuel, but there’s not much infrastructure in place to collect, transport, store, and pump the stuff.

The American Biodiesel Buyers Club is trying to change that.

“We’re starting small, with education,” Camilleri said. “Eventually we’d like to set up at least one permanent waste oil collection site and one fuel pump for every chapter of the club.”

In the meantime, Camilleri is trying to pool together enough buyers to purchase, store, and use 1,000 gallons of biodiesel at a discounted, bulk rate. To raise awareness, her club is hosting a waste oil collection drive on June 4 at Morin Brothers Automotive, 4090 Broad St., from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. They’re encouraging people to bring their used fry oil.  They’re looking for people with rural land and a thirst for diesel to join their buyers’ club.

“Being green is an excellent marketing tool for businesses, especially wineries or anyone with a large distribution area,” Camilleri said.

For more information about the American Biodiesel Buyers Club, stop by Morin Brothers Automotive on June 4, call Camilleri at 235-0508, or visit

Fast Facts

Bring your pocket dictionary and a wallet full of $20 bills to the Grown-up Spelling Bee, a fundraiser for the San Luis Obispo Literacy Council, a nonprofit that helps adult learners develop English communication skills. Food and wine will be served at the Monday Club starting at 7 p.m. on June 4, while teams of four compete. Hints and lifelines can be bought for $20, and contestants are heartily encouraged to bribe the judges. For more information, call 541-4219. …

For the entire month of June, many local dentists will participate in the eighth annual Restore a Smile; Restore a Life fundraiser. People will be able to have their teeth professionally whitened for only $195, all of which will be donated to the Women’s Shelter. For a list of participating dentists, visit

Contributor Nick Powell compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send your business news to

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