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Florida Keys News
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Demand low, price high to offer biodiesel fuel at bight

Key West Bight Marina can't justify adding biodiesel fuel to its services since the marine industry hasn't exactly embraced the eco-friendly alternative to plain old diesel, according to the marina's manager.

In turn, the idea of adding new storage tanks and fuel dispensing machines for biodiesel isn't economically feasible, manager Mark Tait told the Bight Management District Board at its Wednesday meeting at Old City Hall.

"The Internet is filled with all good stuff, lots of pros," Tait said. "But I went to actual people in the industry."

Not one of the 30 marinas to which the bight's fuel supplier, McKenzie Petroleum, delivers uses biodiesel, according to Tait's report.

The report was requested by board member Dan Probert, a biodiesel champion who said he knows a dive boat owner using biodiesel with success.

"I still feel we should consider some way of doing it from the green aspect," he said.

After the report, Probert announced from the dais: "I'm not done yet," drawing a round of admiring laughter.

Key West already has its city buses running on biodiesel, and has recently launched a sustainability campaign aimed at raising awareness of environmental responsibility.

The city hired a sustainability coordinator and endorsed a "12-Step" program dedicated to increasing recycling on the island. But while stocking biodiesel sounds great, the hard facts remain that boaters in the Keys prefer regular diesel and changing over to biodiesel requires a complete "retrograde" on a boat, said Tait.

Investing in biodiesel right now could hurt the city-owned marina's business, city staff said.

"Sales are down," said city property manager Marilyn Wilbarger. "We are losing our fuel customers to Conch Harbor, who is undercutting us and soliciting all our commercial tenants."

Tait said there isn't enough demand for biodiesel in vessels throughout the Florida Keys. The stuff eats up rubber gaskets in older engines, plugs fuel filters and isn't compatible with plastic fuel tanks, the report notes.

The pros are laudable, Tait said: Biodiesel is biodegradable, emits cleaner exhaust above and below deck, and has "superior lubricity" that improves the life of a boat engine.

"You got people coming in for 5,000 gallons of gas, I don't want them going next door because I got 'biodiesel' on my sign," Tait said. "In the future, it will be more effective. New boats are coming out."

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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