Jesse Cornett

I’ve gone through considerable ribbing over the past couple years about my car trading habits. In 2003 when I started working in Salem, I made a decision that being that since it was my first real job out of grad school, and one with a long commute, I wanted a new car. Not just any car, though; I wanted a MINI Cooper. When I accepted the position, one of the first things I did was go to the dealership and custom order a pretty new one. Four months later, it arrived from overseas all shiny and new and I sold my trusty Honda Civic.

When I first got the MINI, the resale prices were pretty high because of the 4 month wait and our “must have now” mindset. Also, I had decided that I was no longer happy with the MINI, I wanted a Cooper S, the beefier model (and I still don’t know why). So, I sold it (and even made a few bucks on the deal). I had to have something to drive in the ten months that I had to wait to get an S from Great Britain and bought a friend’s beat up 1985 Honda Prelude. Because the dealership had a demo model that was very similar to the one I ordered come available, the wait turned out to only be about 6 months for the Cooper S and when it came, I sold the Prelude.

By the time that Cooper S came, I was… well, over it. My infatuation had passed. I still drove the pretty, over-accessorized model around until I stumbled on a newer VW Passat at the lot around the corner from my house. And then I did the math on how much money I could save on car payments alone and the pretty MINI Cooper S went on the market and the Passat in my garage.

The Passat was comfortable and nice, and I actually miss it a little, but the gas mileage wasn’t great (not any better than the S). A few months ago, I had the notion that I could buy a Volkswagen with a diesel engine and start consuming biodiesel. I’d long heard of the option from my “green” friends and, given my commute, thought I would give it a shot. Sure, I was going to save money (the diesel cost a bit more but the engines get upward of 50 miles a gallon), but I was also going to be doing my little part to help the environment by using a clean burning option.

I had a half-serious agreement with my boss, having missed portions of two days early in the legislative session to sell the Cooper S and buy the Passat, that I wouldn’t miss any more time from work for car deals until the end of session (thinking it would be much longer than that). Session ended at 6:20 a.m. and, having still not slept, I met the seller of a beautiful, well accessorized 2001 VW Jetta TDI (Turbo Direct Injection Diesel) at 9 a.m. to close the deal and take home my new diesel.

Getting biodiesel in Portland wasn’t as easy as I’d anticipated. I went to my old friend Mr. Google to get the answer to some questions and found out a little. This week, needing a refill, I invested considerable time into finding out what my options are, including a few old fashion phone calls.

Salem-based Sequential Biofuels, it appears, produces and distributes the vast majority of biodiesel sold in the Portland market – and statewide. For the biodiesel novice, of which I am one, there are three primary kinds available. First, the B20, meaning that it still contains 80% petrodiesel, is available at several locations statewide, and in Portland it’s available via cardlock pumps only. I inquired about this option but it requires a credit check, which I am not fond of anyhow. Next there is B100, which as far as I can tell is only available through the Co-op. Portland's Biodiesel Co-op, Go Biodiesel is something I’ll be researching a little bit more, but here’s what I’ve learned so far: you pay a membership fee (which I don’t know if it’s one time or annual) of $100, help make the fuel and they will sell it to you for an incredibly low price. They will only sell to members.

The third option, which is the one I went with, is B99. B99 is actually B99.9, but they never got around to changing the signs (it was originally only 99%). It seems there’s a tax credit available for the production of mixed fuels, so they must have at least.1% petrodiesel in order to qualify (thanks to the oil industry for inserting that goofy snippet in order to protect their industry). Recently the biofuel industry has been able to clarify that only .1% is required to be eligible.

B99 is available various places in the state. I found three places in Portland that carry Sequential’s product. Two places are located, apparently, at traditional gas stations, and the third, the most convenient option for me, feels like I am getting gas in a friend's back yard. Industrialogical is a low budget, sustainable operation that gets biodiesel out less expensively than most places. On Friday as I filled up on my way to Eastern Oregon (which is another fun story all by itself), I paid less for my gallon of almost pure biodiesel than the petrodiesel cost at the pump. And, here’s to here’s to 700 miles on this tank of gas.

If you are lucky enough to be in possession of a diesel car, check out your bio options. If not, check out the classifieds. If you need any more information about the benefits, go here. They are going to be an even hotter ticket really soon.

  • Lisa (unverified)

    Jesse, Thanks for your note on biodiesel. I have been using B99 biodiesel in my 2000 VW beetle since May. I get about 570-580 miles per tank (mostly around town driving). I fill up at the Sequential pump on Highway 30 just north of Linnton, which is easy and convenient for me. I see LOTS of drivers on Highway 30 with the blue and yellow Sequential "Powered by Biodiesel" bumper stickers--it appears that more and more people are switching to biodiesel.

    Sequential's biodiesel locations in Oregon can be found here:


  • Aaron (unverified)

    Always on the cutting edge, Jesse.


  • Michael Van Derwater (unverified)

    Great article Jesse. We would love to have you join us at Gobiodiesel if you have a few hours (approx 4)a month to spare. You are right that it is a one time $100 fee and you get fuel at a greatly reduced cost. In addition to this you get to be involved in the making of the fuel or gathering of Waste Vegetable oil (as all of our oil is reclaimed) and are a participant in building an innovative co-op which is just about ready to get its Johnson Creek processor up and running. Please email me if you have any questions.

    -Michael Van Derwater General Manager Gobiodiesel

  • Michael Van Derwater (unverified)

    Great article Jesse. We would love to have you join us at Gobiodiesel if you have a few hours (approx 4)a month to spare. You are right that it is a one time $100 fee and you get fuel at a greatly reduced cost. In addition to this you get to be involved in the making of the fuel or gathering of Waste Vegetable oil (as all of our oil is reclaimed) and are a participant in building an innovative co-op which is just about ready to get its Johnson Creek processor up and running. Anyone can do it! Please email me if you have any questions.

    -Michael Van Derwater General Manager Gobiodiesel

  • Simp (unverified)

    With all due respect to Aaron, Biodiesel is anything but cutting edge at this point. Cutting edge is deriving source oil for biodiesel from sea algae :)

    Check out these 2 links: UNH Biodiesel Group

    See a proof of concept video at GreenFuel Online

    I've been running on pure biodiesel in my truck for 2 1/2 years now. All in Portland and have never had a problem getting fuel.

    Keep in mind that biodiesel is non-toxic and you if you don't want to talk to Brian at Industriological or go up to Linton for B99 you can just call up SeQuential and they will deliver biodiesel to your home.

    Also, there is a B20 cardlock pump at 17th and Holgate.


  • Mark Fitz (unverified)

    Glad to hear you made the decision to move to a Oregon domestically refined and sustainable diesel fuel. There are five location in Portland that sell biodiesel products currently.

    Three B99 and Two B20. The first of course is the Industrialogical location your familiar with. There are also two others located at StarOilco's facilities that are branded SeQuential. One is at a Shell station on Hwy 30 in Linnton and the other is close to the NE Marine Drive and I5 connection at StarOilco's main location at 232 NE Middlefield Rd (call 503-283-1256 for directions).

    There are also two B20 locations at commercial cardlocks that are made available to the public because of the low availablity of biodiesel products. The first of the locations are at the intersection of SE 17th and Holgate (across from TriMets bus yard). Another one is located on St. Helens Road in NW Portland's industrial area (right by Montgomery Park).

    We also deliver B99 and B20 around the Portland Metro area for SeQuential in Portland. Also - SeQuential is based out of St. Johns in North Portland (StarOilco's home town since the 1930's by the way). It's plant is in Salem near Kettle Foods which is very supportive of their efforts to create a succesful bio-fuels business. SeQuential was founded in Eugene, Oregon and still holds a significant presence and office in Eugene.

    The three best sources for info on biodiesel are the Federal Department of Energy site,, and (SeQuential biofuels website).

    Mark Fitz StarOilco (jousting the sustainable fuels monster since 2000)

  • (Show?)

    I am rather thrilled at the additional information added by some people who know this subject much better than I do (and on Sunday of a holiday weekend, no less)!


  • roger (unverified)

    I'm interested in switching to bio or vegetable oil in my powerstroke diesel. I'm concerned of any negative side effects (significant loss of power, clogging up filters or exhaust, motors blowing up or anything else.) from switching to either. I'm a Contractor and need this truck to remain reliable and have towing power.

    Can anyone tell me of ANYTHING bad that may happen by switching to either of these alternative fuels.


  • BOHICA (unverified)

    5 cars in 2 years?? Glad you finally woke up, but WTF, over?

  • (Show?)

    I rode on the airplane to Chicago with a guy who arranges renewable energy (wind, geothermal, solar) contracts with utility companies.

    He believes that biodiesel is the future, particularly more "bio" mixes for all cars. He also claims that larger energy companies are going to move in and take this over very quickly. While the small scale volunteer and entrepeneurs are doing yeoman's duty in getting this market started, it's likely that you'll be able to fill up at your local Shell station in five years.

  • Simp (unverified)

    Hey Paul,

    Haven't talked to you in a while :)

    True, Big Energy will come in and take over once they see that all the foot work has been done by use peons (and that margins are acceptable). One thing to keep in mind though, is that they will be pushing blends of up to B20 for the most part (initially only B2 and B5). I think there is going to be a big problem with getting people past the B20 level.

    Even when I talk to people who are aware of Biodiesel, a lot believe that you can only use up to a 20% mix with petroleum diesel. Most of us here are using and pushing hard for B99.

  • (Show?)

    WTF? BTW, I have managed to spend almost no money in car payments in that time (well, got it all back at the sale).

    I certainly hope the biofuels become mainstream. This is an issue that will tie liberals and conservatives together. If you call a biodiesel company, they'll not only talk about the environmental benefits, but the fact it is a 100% American made product, produced by family farmers.

  • Miriam (unverified)

    If I bought a new diesel Jeep do you think I could run the B99.9 through it? I know people are running it in the Volkswagens, don't know if the Jeep would be different. Thank you.

  • Miriam (unverified)

    Any thoughts on if or how Katrina could affect biodiesel availability? I have read that a large part of corn and soy production has gone through Louisiana. Are the raw materials for Oregon's biodiesel local? Thank you.

  • Simp (unverified)


    There should be absolutely no trouble running B99 in a new Jeep. There could possibly be warranty issues though (due to manufactuers looking for any reason not to pay for a fix, regardless of the source of the problem).

    I've been running B99 in my 2003 truck from day 1. I did have an issue that came up where I had to have a part replaced under warranty. Not wanting to argue warranty issues, I simply siphoned out the B99, put in a few gallons of petro diesel and took it in for the fix.

    As far as price/availability due to Katrina, I don't have any specific info. We most likely won't see the results for a few more months. Virtually no source oil for commercial BioD comes from corn oil, it is virtualy all soy atm. Keep in mind that soy is not the optimal crop to extract oil from. Rapeseed, mustard seed all yeild quite a bit more per acre than soy.

    The main reason that soy has gotten its foothold is due to big Ag (Monsanto and ADM) co-opting the National Biodiesel Board. Additionally there is a glut of soy on the market. Source oil will shift over time to more efficient crops (hopefully sea algae eventually).

  • Mahdi (unverified)

    Hello Thank you for your notes about biodiesel. I am Msc. student and i want to design biodiesel processor. <marquee bgcolor="#FF99CC">Can you help me?</marquee>

connect with blueoregon