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As a finalist in our Fall 2013 People & Planet Awards contest, Dogpatch Biofuels wowed our panel of expert judges, as well as the voting public. We wanted to give the folks at Dogpatch a further platform to explain how biofuels are making a difference in the San Francisco area, so we invited Drew Pannell, operations manager, to answer our "Faces of the Green Pages" questions.
"While our challenges may be numerous in the ongoing David-and-Goliath battle against Big Oil, everyone here at Dogpatch Biofuels can come to work each day with the pride in that while everyone talks about the grave threat we face with global climate change, we are actually doing something about it. Something real. Something tangible," says Drew. "Every gallon of B99.9 that we sell is one less gallon of petroleum diesel being burned. That's something we can be very proud of, and it's what keeps us going in the face of sometimes daunting odds."
Drew Pannell: Dogpatch Biofuels is San Francisco's only public high-blend biodiesel station, providing the city and the greater San Francisco Bay Area with a reliable source for the highest-quality renewable biodiesel on the market since its founding in 2008. We are a certified San Francisco Green Business, as well as being a Gold Certified Business with Green America.
What makes Dogpatch BIofuels green?
Drew: The fuel we dispense here at Dogpatch Biofuels is derived entirely from recycled used vegetable oil, at a 99.9 percent bio-content level in the finished ASTM-certified product (also known as "B99.9"). Compare that with the "B20" biodiesel blends seen at other stations, which only contain 20 percent bio-content, and 80 percent petroleum! The biodiesel we sell has some of the lowest "Carbon Intensity" scores currently available in the transportation sector according to scientific "cradle-to-grave" analyses. Biodiesel is better for the environment because it is made from renewable resources and has far lower emissions compared to petroleum diesel. It is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as sugar. Produced domestically with natural resources, its use decreases our dependence on imported fuel and contributes to our own economy.
What were you doing before you started your green business?
Drew: I have long been a committed advocate for the replacement of petroleum with sustainable, domestic biofuels, even during my prior career as a corporate marketing/advertising designer. Starting from a grassroots background of helping concerned individuals transition to alternative fuel vehicles, to currently managing operations at San Francisco's only high-blend biodiesel station, I have all the while been driven by the overarching goal of making a real and direct impact to mitigate further human damage to our fragile environment. Always seeking to lead by example, I have personally been driving almost entirely without petroleum since 2006 through the use of renewable biodiesel. My constant, active efforts to collaborate on new aspects of post-petroleum transportation infrastructure led me to Dogpatch Biofuels.
Named for the neighborhood where our original station is located, the station opened its pumps to the public in 2008. I joined the Dogpatch team in 2011 as the station's Assistant Manager, and rose to become Operations Manager in 2012.
What have been the biggest challenges to social and environmental responsibility?
Drew: We, and the biodiesel industry as a whole, face a number of challenges currently. There is a bewildering array of issues we are working to overcome, from inconsistent legislation constantly swayed and undermined by the lobbying efforts of Big Oil to the engineered incompatibility with higher blend percentages of biodiesel in all passenger vehicles since 2007. We continue to fight on, though, because the cause we fight for is the very survival of our planet.
What's the next green step you're working on right now?
Drew: While Dogpatch Biofuels has historically been focused on the private passenger vehicle market as the basis of our User Group, we have been making strides toward providing a drop-in renewable fuel solution for commercial fleets in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Even as our new business segment is under development, we have seen a great deal of interest from small and large local businesses and even municipalities. We are very hopeful for the future of the station in providing sustainable fueling solutions to this new market segment
What advice would you give to other social and environmental entrepreneurs just starting out?
Drew: If you're seeking to be a pioneer in any trailblazing sustainable industry, following "conventional wisdom" can be your worst enemy. The inertia of status quo business methods can take a significant amount of time to overcome. Have patience, be prepared for the long game - and don't lose hope when your cause is just.
What's the most hopeful sign you've seen recently from the green economy?
Drew: We are currently in the process of adapting our business model to focus increasingly on the commercial sector, because the class of vehicles used in fleets tends to still be compatible with pure biodiesel (or at least higher blends), and the environmental benefits to be realized are significant. We are seeking to partner with businesses within our service area to help them actually green their fleets - in a real way that isn't just "greenwashing" - by transitioning to fueling with our biodiesel.
What green product (besides your own!) can you not live without?
Drew: One of my favorite green products is an invention from our sister company called Biolighter. Biolighter is perhaps a somewhat mundane product; a charcoal lighter fluid for the barbecue. What makes it special is that it is the first charcoal lighter fluid to be completely petroleum-free. When I get my locally produced "slow food" Burger Box from 4505 Meats here in San Francisco, there's nothing I like better than cooking up those patties over natural mesquite lump charcoal stoked up with Biolighter. No nasty petroleum taste on your grilled food, and it's better for the planet!