Pittsboro NC on Biofuels Map
Pittsboro is joining the global race to create standards for biofuels.The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, has established an office in the Chatham County town to lead its effort in the Americas.Biofuels, used as substitutes for gasoline and diesel fuel, are struggling to gain acceptance as alternatives to imported oil. The Swiss effort is bringing together hundreds of growers, producers, users around the world and others in an attempt to create a seal of approval for biofuels produced using ecologically sound methods.The organization set up its Americas office here because it hired away a coordinator from Piedmont Biofuels Cooperative, a Pittsboro group that makes and sells biodiesel locally from used vegetable oil and chicken fat.After its early promise to shift cars away from oil, support for biofuels sputtered after critics charged that alternative fuels were too often wasteful and inefficient, and after the rush to ethanol was blamed for higher corn prices.The creation of the Pittsboro office is the latest effort by biofuels advocates to create standards for their industry and boost their credibility. The National Biodiesel Board in Missouri is working on its own industry standards, as is the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance in Texas.None of the standards would likely be binding, and it’s not clear whether any of the rules would be accepted or followed by growers and producers. But the several simultaneous certification efforts speak to the urgency of the fledgling industry’s problem.Biofuels defenders acknowledge that some production methods are wasteful and inefficient.”All biodiesel is not created equal,” said Jeff Plowman, director of the biodiesel alliance in Texas. “We don’t want to drive the fuel 4,000 miles to a production facility and then turn around and ship it 3,000 miles to market. That would completely negate any carbon benefit of the fuel.”The Swiss group is sponsored by that country’s Federal Institute of Technology, a science and technology university, and roundtable participants include the United Nations Environment Program, World Wildlife Fund and Inter-American Development Bank. It has proposed sustainability standards that would be used globally to certify biofuels that are produced using fair labor and ecologically sound land use practices, and don’t generate more greenhouses gases than they offset, among a dozen goals.Matt Rudolf, who this month began running the group’s Pittsboro office, will listen to comments and suggestions on the draft standards at meetings to be held in this country, Canada and Latin America. Rudolf expects to meet with several hundred growers, producers and industrial users in the coming months.The Swiss group expects to publish its standards in June and hopes the guidelines gain acceptance.”The biofuels producers are taking a lot of heat right now,” Rudolf said. “So they want some cover.”While Rudolf is working in the Americas, other organizers are working with growers and producers in Europe, Asia and Africa.Before he began working for the Roundtable this month, Rudolf directed the Piedmont Biofuels Cooperative, an organization that collects used oil from about 100 area restaurants and converts it into biodiesel.The co-op has helped raise the region’s profile with its work in biofuels. It operates eight distribution centers in this state for B100 fuel, which is 100 percent biodiesel. Unlike biofuels centers that sell B20 and other biodiesel blends with standard diesel, Piedmont Biofuels specializes in pure B100 fuel. By
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