Tri-State combats biodiesel myths, recognized for social innovation

By Nicholas Zeman | September 18, 2009
Posted October 12, 2009

New York City's feedstock procurement firm, Tri-State Biodiesel LLC, which provides recycled restaurant greases to biodiesel producers, has received the 2009 Innovation Award from the Social Venture Network. Brent Baker, CEO of Tri-State, has been a member of SVN for several years and will be accepting the award at the organization's fall conference, which starts Oct. 22 in La Jolla, Calif. "These are business leaders who are dedicated to making the world a better a place, and support a mission to work with other members," Baker told Biodiesel Magazine.

As a representative of the biodiesel industry, Baker said he has been involved in dispelling the "myths" created by certain lobbying groups meant to confuse the public about the benefits and characteristics of biodiesel. "It's been particularly bad the past two years," Baker said. "One is that biodiesel production and use is worse for the environment, and takes more energy, than petroleum-and that simply is not true," he said. "The first 15 years I was involved in this business, I never heard that." Baker feels his role in education and the promotion of biodiesel led to Tri-State's selection as an SVN Innovator. "There's been a lot of negative publicity and I've been educating legislators and others about the positives."

One of the controversies surrounding biodiesel lately has been its perceived role in the destruction of South American and Southeast Asian tropical forests. Biodiesel Magazine asked him if palm methyl esters were tarnishing the reputation of the industry. "The palm oil industry was an industry well before biodiesel," Baker said. "And there is sustainable palm oil production, so we can't let pictures of fires and abandoned villages color our whole perception of palm production."

Sustainability-the continued healthiness and longevity of an enterprise-is of particular importance to the SVN, and has been a platform of Tri-State, which collects waste from 2,700 restaurants in the New York City area. Focusing on feedstock procurement from a recycling, instead of a commodity, standpoint has allowed the company to emerge as a profitable leader in the industry. Nevertheless, he congratulates what he calls predecessors to second-generation biofuels production-the ethanol industry and soy-based biodiesel.
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