During a visit to highlight renewable energy use by the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also spotlighted the Hawaii-based biodiesel producer that supplies much of the fuel used there.
Pacific Biodiesel “is the oldest biodiesel producer and refinery in the country, started in 1996,” said Vilsack during his remarks on Tuesday at the memorial, noting that USDA has provided assistance to help that company grow. “We provided recently a $5 million business and industry loan to Pacific Biodiesel to allow it to continue to expand its capacity.”
That loan, announced in February 2010, is being used to construct a $10 million, 5.5 million gallon per year biodiesel production plant in Kea’au on the Big Island. Pacific Biodiesel vice president and co-founder Kelly King says Big Island Biodiesel will be the companies 13th biodiesel plant. “We’ll be owning and operating five of them, the other ones we built for clients throughout the mainland, from the east coast to the west coast,” she says, with capacity ranging from a half million to six million gallons.
“We started in Maui, where we actually had the first available biodiesel pump for the public,” said King. “Back then, most of our customers were environmental hippies who would come and pay 70 cents a gallon more for fuel and thank us and tell us to keep the change!”
King says Pacific Biodiesel operates on a community-based sustainable model set up locally to benefit local communities. While all the plants can use any type of oil feedstocks, much of them operate on used cooking oil. “It can use the most degraded oils up to the purest oils,” she said. “The degraded oils make the best feedstock because it’s the cheapest!”
King and two of her Pacific Biodiesel team members were excited to be part of the secretary’s appearance at Pearl Harbor and to have him recognize the importance of renewable fuels in the Aloha State.
Listen to an interview with Kelly King here: Pacific Biodiesel VP Kelly King
Photos from Secretary’s visit to Pearl Harbor memorial to promote biofuels