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Wednesday, 20 December 2006 00:00

Biodiesel station opens in Cullowhee

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By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

The delivery of 3,000 gallons of B-20 biodiesel manufactured by Smoky Mountain Biofuels made Hop’s Gas and Grocery on Old Cullowhee Road the first station to offer a public biodiesel pump west of Asheville last week.

 

The biodiesel — a mixture of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum — is for use by anyone with a diesel engine. It sells for $2.89 per gallon, versus the station’s $2.36 for regular gas.

Station owner Sam Hopkins has been waiting to become the first public purveyor of biodiesel since March, when he took over the station’s operation.

“He’s kind of been on us,” said Smoky Mountain Biofuels company owner Al Begley.

For years, Hopkins had leased out the station, but it became rundown and a place for drug sales, he said. He decided it was time to run the station himself and clean things up — both in terms of character and the products the station offers. Biodiesel appealed to him because it offers an alternative to continuing to rely on foreign oil and is cleaner.

“Trying to help out the atmosphere and pollution is the main thing,” Hopkins said of what attracted him to biodiesel.

Hop’s is anything but a high-tech kind of station. Its pumps register gallons and cents on rotating dials and don’t accept credit cards at the curb. It’s the kind of place shoppers can fill their tank and pick up some chainsaw lubricant — there’s no attached fast food joint or kitschy gifts section.

But Hopkins, and Biofuels owners Begley and Sam Gray, think the station’s proximity to Western Carolina University will bring in environmentally conscious professors, students and nearby residents. The station also may see traffic from the surrounding counties, as drivers will no longer have to travel all the way to Asheville to fill up.

“There have been a lot of people asking for it,” Hopkins said.

Smoky Mountain Biofuels, which manufactures its biodiesel at the Jackson County Green Energy Park in Dillsboro, supplies the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Jackson County government and Cherokee with biodiesel for large trucks, busses and lawn mowers. The company has also reached an agreement with Swain County to begin providing fuel for that county’s vehicles.

The company is making an average of about 2,000 gallons of biodiesel a day and plans to increase its production to 3 million gallons each year. Plans are to keep sales and delivery regional.

“There’s no sense in making it and sending it 400 miles away,” Begley said.

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