Piedmont Biofuels: Still Brewing


We first covered Piedmont Biofuels way back in May 2005, but they are certainly worth revisiting. Based in the piedmont region of North Carolina, this worker and member-owned cooperative promotes and sells biodiesel fuel made from vegetable oil. They also operate a busy internship program, run oil-seed crop research on their farm, and their representatives have an extremely full schedule of speaking engagements on renewable energy and sustainability issues. As if this were not enough, they run a frequently updated blog on energy issues — one recent entry, entitled 'Coat and Tie Sustainability', delves in to the difficulties of participating in public debate on energy issues, and on picking through the greenwash from utility companies and other vested interests:

Duke Power: "We have a diversity of feedstocks."
Me on microphone: "Right. Coal, natural gas and uranium. All fossils. Zero renewables in our energy mix. No commercial wind, not enough solar to measure, and not enough biomass to put in a thimble. All we have is lawsuits and fossils. When it comes to renewables we are about dead last."
Duke Power: "But we want to lead "
Me to Matt: "What does North Carolina actually lead in? Do we lead in wanting to lead?"
Matt: "Shhh. We lead in tobacco."

And when the good folks at Piedmont Biofuels are not busy butting heads with representatives of big energy, it seems they are actively expanding and refining (pun intended) the biofuel market in NC. They have recently completed one of North Carolina's first commercial biodiesel plants, which the blog describes as a 'zero to four million gallon per year operation, depending on how hard you want to work it.' Let's just hope they go for the higher end of the scale.

Stay tuned for an interview with Lyle Estill, Piedmont Biofuels member, representative and author of Biodiesel Power: The Passion, the People, and the Politics of the Next Renewable Fuel.

[Written by: Sami Grover]

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