Central Valley Business Journal, March 2012
By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor
STOCKTON – Federal officials last month lauded a Port of Stockton biodiesel firm for its “phenomenal” progress since it was founded in 2005.
Community Fuels – which doubled its production from 2009 to 2010 and then tripled it from 2010 to 2011 – was the backdrop March 20 as the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlighted the 2008 Farm Bill’s achievements in rural and farm-related projects.
“As we celebrate Energy Month at USDA, we are proud to highlight partners such as Community Fuels and their efforts to produce advanced biofuels, which are critical to help our nation become more energy efficient and reduce our reliance on foreign oil,” California State Director for Rural Development Glenda Humiston said. “At USDA we understand the important role energy costs play in improving the bottom line, which is why we have partnered with rural businesses, farmers and ranchers to help find energy solutions that will spur economic growth in rural California.”
“We wanted to bring some attention to this particular program,” Phil Brown, energy coordinator for the USDA’s Rural Development office, “because everything about it is just phenomenal.”
The visit came as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released a report highlighting the ways USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) contributes to the nation’s energy independence and helps rural small businesses and farmers become more energy efficient.
Community Fuels now produces 30,000 gallons of biodiesel each day. That goes to oil producers, refineries, and fuel distributors, often to be blended with conventional petroleum-based diesel. The idea is to provide a cleaner, sustainable fuel that improves air quality while reducing dependence on foreign oil.
The downside is that biodiesel and other clean energy “do not pencil out yet,” said Brown, and producers such as Community Fuels rely on government incentives. The USDA payment program in California has paid out $1.6 million so far to 13 companies. Community Fuels, which received $567,000 from the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program based on its fuel production, is the largest producer.
Lisa Mortenson, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said that money allowed Community Fuels to increase production by 125,000 gallons a month and hire six employees. Mortenson introduced some of those employees hired because of the funding, including Tammy Martin, the company’s procurement and logistics manager.
“Tammy is an example of a real job, a real employee due to USDA funding,” said Mortenson.
She said Community Fuels started with a vision to develop clean, sustainable fuel that would help improve air quality. The result “with that vision in hand and a lot of very, very hard work” was the development of a fuel that could force conventional petroleum-based diesel engines into retirement, said Mortenson.
“It’s a terrific fuel,” Mortenson said of Community Fuel’s product.
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