Biodiesel prices roll back to pre-biodiesel days

ASHFIELD — Imagine paying the prices of 50 years ago for heating oil or fuel for your vehicle. Does biodiesel maker Tom Leue have a deal for you.

His Homestead Inc. Yellow Brand Premium Biodiesel, which has been selling at $4.50 a gallon for motor fuel or $4.25 a gallon for home heating oil is now being priced at 25 cents a gallon for the foreseeable future.

Of course there’s a catch.

This is the cash-only price, and you have to pay in coins minted before 1965, when quarters, dimes, 50-cent pieces and so-called “silver dollars” in fact contained up to 90 percent silver. Today, silver is worth more than $21 per ounce on the New York spot market.

Leue is clear about his motive for selling B-100 biodiesel at prices of yesteryear, “I can make a profit at that price,” he said, particularly since he plans on holding onto those old coins until the silver market heats up in the future.

The silver-bargain price is only good at Leue’s Ashfield operation on Route 112, not at other retail locations like the Ashfield Neighbors store, Greenfield Solar Store, or Frank Labelle in Buckland. Delivery in the area can also be arranged, said Leue, for an additional charge. The bargain price is only for bulk purchases or “fill-your-own” jugs.

Leue, who sells 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of the fuel a year, has been producing it for more than 10 years from used vegetable oil he collects from area restaurants, so it’s been known to smell like French fries or Southern fried chicken from the vehicles it powers.

Coincidentally, today has been declared National Biodiesel Day, the anniversary of Rudolf Diesel’s birthday. When he first introduced the diesel engine, it ran on peanut oil not petroleum.

The Fryolator oil for silver idea is typical for Leue, who has worked as an energy director for Hampshire College and the City of Northampton, and who in 1981 started Homestead as a small-scale distillery after hearing about a Florida couple who traveled cross-country in their veggie oil-fueled van, filling up for free along the way at McDonald’s.

Leue is also a founder and board member of Northeast Biodiesel, which is building a commercial-scale refinery in Greenfield to produce 1.75 million gallons of biofuel a year.

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 269.

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