Albany man mixes 'green' fuels to cut costs


by Associated Press

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 6 at 1:23 PM

ALBANY, Ore. (AP) -- The world isn't beating a path to his door yet, but John Knox, with his Greased Lightning Delivery, thinks that may change as word gets around.

"The customers I have did the math," says Knox, whose business is designed to provide an economical and environmentally friendly alternative for businesses. "I believe I can save people money."

He says a truck powered by biofuel makes his delivery service affordable. Biodiesel mixes with vegetable grease runs through a modified two-tank fuel system on his 1982 Mazda diesel truck. Now he avoids gas stations altogether.

"I get the vegetable grease from local restaurants," he says. "It costs about 60 cents for the grease and about half of that goes for fuel taxes."

His biodiesel is manufactured by a friend. The vegetable grease runs through his modified fuel system and is heated to about 180 degrees.

"That gets the water out," he said. "Once it's hot and thin enough to go through the pumps it runs just like diesel."

Knox says because of it he can be very competitive in his prices, and says it's catching on with customers.

"I've picked up some clients and met my expenses so far," said Knox, who runs the business from his Albany home. "I'm seeing more people and trying to make face-to-face contacts."

The self-described shade-tree mechanic does much of his own ruck maintenance.

He had wanted to address environmental issues He started using his biofuel in summer months and found it to be green in many ways.

"It was great just to be able to afford to drive around," Knox said. He got to thinking about business applications.

"It occurred to me I could offer an environmental alternative at a reasonable price," Knox said. "More people are considering costs. I think I offer a way they can save."

He will deliver in the Willamette Valley and Portland. Same-day service in and around Albany and Corvallis is $5.

Knox has a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Texas and spent 21 months in the Peace Corps in West Africa, where he taught water and sanitation issues. He also suffered a severe nerve injury.

Meanwhile his parents had moved to Salem, which brought him to Oregon to rehabilitate.

"I was practically bedridden for 9 months," he told the Albany Democrat Herald newspaper.

Meanwhile he developed an interest in alternative fuels and ultimately turned that into his business.

Knox says he maps out his routes using a laptop computer and a GPS system to ensure maximum driving efficiency. His customers include florists, farmers and mechanics.

"Right now it's just me but I'm encouraged," he said.