Collective conference a big draw for small biodiesel producers

By Bryan Sims | August 09, 2011

The spirit of the small-scale biodiesel industry is alive and well as more than 40 experts, enthusiasts, supporters and interested beginners convened in Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, Aug. 5-7 for the 2011 Collective Biofuels Conference to network and discuss all things biodiesel. It was the first time the event, which began in 2006 in Colorado and was last held in Washington, D.C., in 2009, was hosted outside of the U.S.

Hosted by Cowichan Energy Alternatives and the Cowichan Bio-Diesel Co-op, the conference featured 20 workshops centered on a variety of community-scale biodiesel topic such as alternative feedstocks, straight vegetable oil conversions, fundamental methods for forming a cooperative, the mechanics of maintaining a biofuel-powered vehicle, running a biodiesel retail station, technical aspects of safe biodiesel production and a business development workshop.

The Cowichan Tribes Spirit Drummers kicked off the conference Aug. 5 during a networking social that featured opening remarks from local Member of Parliament Jean Crowder, Duncan Mayor Phil Kent, CEA President Miles Phillips and Cowichan Bio-Diesel Co-op President Brian Roberts. The night concluded with a screening of Josh and Rebecca Tickell’s forthcoming film “Freedom” with a subsequent panel discussion that featured Josh Tickell, Michael Rensing with the Renewable Energy Development Branch of the British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines, Sandy McPherson with Transition Cowichan, Judy Stafford with Cowichan Green Community and farmer and writer Don Maroc.

Lyle Estill, co-founder of North Carolina-based Piedmont Biofuels, considered by many as the model of a successful community-scale biodiesel operation, was the keynote. Estill is the author of many articles, essays and books on sustainability, with the most recent of which is titled Industrial Evolution; Local Solutions for a Low Carbon Future. He’s also author of Biodiesel Power and Small is Possible—Life in a Local Economy.

Estill shared the success stories and failures that Piedmont Biofuels endured during its tenuous path of becoming a thriving biodiesel organization in Pittsboro, N.C., providing advice to those who may be faced with similar adversities which may be overcome.

“You don’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do,” Estill said quoting esteemed automobile pioneer Henry Ford.

The conference concluded with a tour of the Bing’s Creek Biofuels Facility at CVRD Solid Waste Management Facility in Duncan (owned by Cowichan Bio-Diesel Cooperative) followed by a tour of Averill Creek’s winery and wine tasting and a dinner at Alderlea Farm, a local organic certified biodynamic community supported agriculture. 


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