Home brew fuel was start of enterprise

The Register-Guard
June 16, 2002 - Susan Palmer

Eugene Biosource was born a couple of years ago when Ian Hill, a University of Oregon student, had an unfortunate incident with his Toyota pickup.

The truck engine caught fire and the pickup died an incendiary death by a roadside. Hill took the insurance money and went looking for a car that was easier on the environment.

He investigated electric cars and hybrids, but was smitten when he stumbled onto biofuel.

The notion that he could make his own fuel from recycled restaurant grease sparked his interest, he said. He went out and bought himself a diesel van.

Then he and longtime friend Thomas Endicott set about cooking up biodiesel in their garage, using spent cooking oil from Mazzi's Restaurant and following instructions from a book on biodiesel.

Their first batch came out perfectly, Hill said. And while it was empowering to make and a kick to run in the van, they quickly learned it was no money maker.

Profit margins in the fuel business are slim, Hill said.

They wouldn't be getting rich making 40-gallon batches in the garage. The smallest production volume that would be economically viable is more like 3 million gallons a year, Hill said. Also, they decided, making fuel might not be the best use of their skills.

Hill, 28, is studying environmental science at the UO and Endicott, 30, has a degree in environmental sustainability from Cornell University and a master's degree in public policy and planning from the UO. The two were joined nine months ago in the enterprise by Endicott's brother, Josh, 28, who has degrees in English and Spanish from Amherst College.

Rather than creating biofuel, they decided to promote its use.

The Oregon Country Fair was an easy pitch. The trio had a biodiesel booth at the fair last year and fair managers wanted in then and there, Hill said. But Eugene Biosource didn't have enough fuel with their backyard operation and hadn't yet made the contacts with distributors.

This year, they were ready to help and have expanded their mission, Thomas Endicott said.

They expect to incorporate Eugene Biosource as a nonprofit agency that will act as an information and education center for biodiesel and other sustainable fuels.

But they also expect to create a for-profit entity as well, one that brokers biofuel deals, such as the one with Tyree Oil, and helps market the product.

Despite the higher cost of biodiesel, they believe people will buy it once it's available.

"It parallels organic foods," Thomas Endicott said. "People will pay more for fuel that's cleaner."

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