Chuck chats with fellow musician Rob Del Bueno from Refuel Biodiesel about how he went from making fuel in his backyard (let's just say the EPA wasn't too thrilled with that) to launching a "legitimate operation" producing biodiesel. (Video by Hibbotte)


Chuck: Hi. Chuck Leavell here for the Mother Nature Network and I’m here with a very interesting and enterprising young fellow named Rob Del Bueno. Rob is a fellow musician, a bass player here in the Atlanta area, also a recording studio owner, a studio called Zero Return. But today, we’re here not to talk about music but to talk about biodiesel because Rob has a really interesting story about his business here called Refuel Biodiesel here in the Atlanta area. So Rob, how in the world did you get into biodiesel?
Rob: Well, it was actually through music. I, ah, after touring for a while, sort of settled down a little bit and opened a recording studio and eventually had a client come into the studio to record, came in from Santa Cruz, California and during the session, he was telling me about how his girlfriend at the time who is a singer/songwriter was travelling around the country in a, it was like an F350 pick up truck with a sleeper camper on the back. And she had converted this thing to run on fryer oil, used fryer oil. So she’d go and play these shows, you know, at some dive bar, get paid 50 bucks to play the show and pull around back and grab the fryer oil, the waste fryer oil, and put it in her truck and drive to the next venue. And I thought, you got to totally be kidding me. There’s no way that could work. And he was like, no, check it out. It actually can work. And so I started digging in. And I had to start tinkering. There was no way I could, you know, the implications of that just seemed crazy on a number of different levels. So I went out, bought an old, like, ’74 diesel Mercedes Benz, started playing around with cooking oil and one thing led to another. I learned about biodiesel through that, learned how to make biodiesel, started doing it in the kitchen, then in the backyard. Then, you know, my friends wanted to start using some and you know, one thing led to another, started making it, you know, five gallons at a time, 50 gallons at a time, 100 gallons at a time. And, you know, everything was going great except for eventually, I got a little press about what I was doing and the local weekly ran a story and the next thing you know, I had the EPA and the IRS calling me up and turns out, you can’t just make fuel in your backyard and skirt, there’s a lot of regulation out there. So, I was still convinced that there was something to it and there must be a way to do it legitimately. So I set out to figure out what are the requirements. What are the regulations? What would it take to put together a legitimate operation? And that’s what I’ve been spending the last couple of years doing. Biodiesel can be derived from any fat source. So it can be made from things like soybean oil, canola oil. It can also be made from rendered animal fat, so any residual from meat packing facilities. But most exciting for me is that it can be made from used fryer oil. So a restaurant goes, they cook up some French fries or some catfish, and eventually the oil doesn’t taste good anymore but it still has a lot of BTU value. It still has energy. So instead of dumping that material out or recycling it into animal feed supplement which is often is done, it can be taken and turned into biodiesel and fuel our cars after food use.

Chuck: Right.

Rob: So it’s not affecting the food versus fuel debate and it can be made completely from a recycled material.

Chuck: Okay. So we know that we can use this fuel. It’s a renewable resource which is fantastic. What about the emissions factor?

Rob: The emissions are, the emissions coming out from burning a biodiesel are far better than that of burning petroleum diesel. Pretty much all the harmful pollutants regarding soot, carcinogens, mutagens, the particulates that we breathe, the smog-forming stuff, it’s all produced 50 to 70 percent across the board, biodiesel compared to regular diesel fuel. The biggest one for me though personally is carbon reduction.

Chuck: Right.
Rob: So compared to regular diesel, you see about an 80 percent life cycle carbon emission reduction comparing biodiesel from waste fryer oil to regular petroleum diesel. So with issues regarding climate change and global warming, it’s one of the biggest reductions you can make.