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Drive diesel? Go bio

Are you feeling guilty about burning fossil fuel in your car while warming up the atmosphere?

Ross Haley of Ag Natural in Grass Valley can help assuage your guilt if you drive a diesel-powered vehicle, but it’s going to cost you.

Ag Natural is now pumping biodiesel fuel for area motorists with diesel cars and trucks who want an environmentally friendly alternative to the black, foul-smelling emissions that have limited diesel cars to 1 percent of the American market.



But the initial cost is $3.25 a gallon, a considerable premium over diesel prices as low as $2.18 a gallon at western Nevada County gas stations.

Haley expects the price to drop as usage increases and is confident there are more than enough local motorists – he says he has a list of more than 50 of them – to suck up his initial shipment of 350 gallons.




“It will appeal to people who want to get away from fossil fuels,” he said Monday. “It burns cleaner than fossil fuel, and there’s no loss in mileage or performance.

“You have to go to Sacramento now to get it, and the supply is kind of sporadic.”

The biodiesel fuel, a blend of 80 percent vegetable oil and 20 percent methanol, is supplied by Information Exchange of Bakersfield. Haley said he knows several people in Nevada County who use it on a regular basis. Now Ag Natural wants to become the area’s first commercial fueling station.

The blend that Ag Natural sells is made from rape seed and gives off no odor. Biodiesel also can be made from animal fats and recycled cooking grease, which can emit the smell of French fries from the tailpipe.

Haley pointed out that in the 1890s, Rudolph Diesel envisioned using vegetable oil in his namesake engine, the world’s first internal combustion engine. Some studies suggest that biodiesel might even extend the life of an engine because of its lubricating properties.

He said most diesel engines can use the fuel with few or no modifications, but it might a good idea to clean the filters after the first tank. Because it has a solvent effect, biodiesel may release deposits that have accumulated on gas-tank walls and in pipes, clogging the filters.

Biodiesel fits right in with the other products offered by Ag Natural – organic garden supplies and pet and livestock feed, along with hydroponic and greenhouse supplies.

A native of Nevada County, Haley was introduced to organic gardening at home and opened the store at 403 Idaho Maryland Road on Feb. 1 to give residents an alternative to products that make heavy use of chemicals. Biodiesel fuel extends his product line.

“I believe there are enough people here who want to be free of fossil fuels” to make biodiesel a success, he said.


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