- AP Matt Curry Jan 14th 2005
“On the Road Again” means something new for Willie Nelson these days — a
chance for truckers to fill their tanks with clean-burning biodiesel fuel.
Nelson and three
business partners recently formed a company called Willie Nelson’s
Biodiesel that is marketing the fuel to truck stops. The fuel, called
BioWillie, is made from vegetable oils, mainly soybeans, and can be
burned without modification to diesel engines.
It may be difficult to
picture the 71-year-old hair-braided Texas rebel as an energy company
executive, but the singer’s new gig is in many ways about social
responsibility — and that is classic Nelson.
“There is really no need
going around starting wars over oil. We have it here at home. We have
the necessary product, the farmers can grow it,” said Nelson, who
organized Farm Aid two decades ago to draw attention to the plight of
Nelson said he began
learning about the product a few years ago after his wife purchased a
biodiesel-burning car in Hawaii, where the star has a home.
“I got on the computer
and punched in biodiesel and found out this could be the future,” said
Nelson, who now uses the fuel for his cars and tour buses.
AP Photo/Paul Natkin/Farm
Partnership at the pump
Peter Bell, CEO of
DistributionDrive, a Texas biodiesel
supplier, struck up a friendship with Nelson after filling up one of
the tour buses, and the business partnership came together just before
Donna Mcwilliam / AP
Peter Bell, seen here at a Fort Worth biodiesel station, is one of
Willie Nelson's biodiesel business partners.
Bell said Nelson’s name
will help the largely unknown fuel — typically purchased by government
agencies to promote environmental awareness — gain wider national
acceptance. The fuel’s average U.S. price per gallon is $1.79.
“What Willie brings to
this is the ability to communicate directly with a truck driver. That
kind of community is hard for people to get to,” Bell said. “When he
starts talking, these folks really listen to him. ... It’s like having
Tiger Woods talk about golf clubs.”
Still, a driver can cover many miles without
spotting a biodiesel pump.
A map on the National Biodiesel Board’s Web site
shows a heavy concentration of distributors in the Midwest, but very
few in other parts of the country.
Potential and obstacles
Nelson’s group is currently
negotiating with Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops & Country
Stores to carry the fuel at its 169 locations nationwide.
Dan Gilligan, president
of the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, expects commercial
expansion for biodiesel, but says that supplies are still limited and
that making the fuel available in northern states is a challenge.
“For terminals to store
biodiesel, they have to store it in heated tanks to avoid gelling
problems. That’s a challenge for the industry to overcome,” he said.