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Originally published February 21, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 21, 2007 at 6:46 PM

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Biodiesel goes mainstream with Safeway's entry into the market

Dan Freeman says he's been selling bio fuel to his clientele for more than five years in Ballard, but says he's happy to be at the opening of Safeway's first biodiesel pump this morning in West Seattle.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Dan Freeman says he's been selling bio fuel to his clientele for more than five years in Ballard, but says he's happy to be at the opening of Safeway's first biodiesel pump this morning in West Seattle.

Rather than seeing Safeway's entry into the biodiesel business as competition, Freeman said he welcomes them as another way to get greener fuel into more tanks.

"It's a different clientele and a different blend," said Freeman, who sells B99 at Dr. Dan's Fuel Alternative Werks. Freeman said his biofuel is 99 percent free of petroleum products.

Plenty of businesses all over the Puget Sound region have been selling biodiesel for years, and Seattle has long been an early leader in its use. But Safeway's entrance into the market marks the first time such a prominent chain has taken the plunge into alternative fuels, another indication that the demand is growing.

At the Safeway pump station on Admiral Way this morning, Seattle Mayor Greg Nichols pumped the station's first tank of biodiesel into Dr. Dan's Volkswagen.

The fuel -- a blend of 20 percent biodiesel made from soy and 80 percent petroleum product -- was selling for just under $2.86 per gallon. It can be used by any vehicle with a diesel engine, Freeman said. Unleaded gasoline at the Safeway station was priced at $2.53 per gallon.

Freeman said he gets about 47 miles to the gallon and has heard from customers who routinely top 50.

Biodiesel's popularity has grown as concerns about the environment and global warming have risen. A Department of Energy study found that pure biodiesel emits about 80 percent less carbon dioxide and releases fewer toxins than petroleum.

The Puget Sound area has several alternative fuel refineries and more than a dozen local gas stations that offer different blends of the greener fuels, Freeman said.

Safeway spokeswoman Cherie Myers said that if their fuel sells, Safeway will likely open two more stations, one in Ballard and another in Crown Hill.

Biodiesel is available at more than a dozen locations throughout the region.

Meanwhile, Imperium Renewables of Seattle says it's raised $113 million in new capital and will obtain $101 million more in debt financing. Imperium, which is building what it calls the nation's largest biodiesel plant at the Port of Grays Harbor, said today the new money will enable it "to open additional facilities around the world, including Hawaii, the Northeast United States and internationally."

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