Straight Talk

By Ron Kotrba | February 09, 2011

We live in a world of cautious, canned statements where people are hesitant to tell you what they really think about the issues. And then there’s Peter Brown.

In case you don’t know who he is, Brown is co-founder of International Procurement Tools, a company that says if you have a permitted site and a building with a concrete slab, it will build you a 60 MMgy pipe-to-pipe biodiesel processing unit for $6 million. That’s 10 cents per gallon of installed capacity. The systems are based on the horizontal waterless process developed at the University of Kassel in Europe, the same technology on which Greenline Industries, a biodiesel hardware vendor that went out of business two years ago, based its equipment.

I had a long conversation with Brown, whose brother started Greenline Industries. While Brown was never officially employed by Greenline, he handled public relations for the company at arm’s length, along with international sales. In our conversation, which can be read in the Q-and-A on page 22, titled, “Whatever it Takes,” Brown discusses what happened to Greenline Industries, and how lessons learned from that spectacular failure will help keep his new company from making similar mistakes.

“I had a bird’s eye view and a worm’s eye view of the company,” Brown told me. “You and I sat in that press conference at the 2009 National Biodiesel Conference and, to me, that was probably the highlight and the lowlight of the company. They lost focus at that point of what they were up to. They had gone through a very successful round of financing and picked up $20 million, and by then they did what every single in Silicon Valley did—they started spending the money on things that were not relevant to the business. They forgot that what they were was a hardware vendor.”

Brown also offers a broader perspective on some serious, important issues facing the biodiesel industry today, such as how to increase U.S. domestic demand for biodiesel, what really happened to the German biodiesel industry and market, where he sees the most promise for biodiesel activity globally, and much more.

I hope you find Brown’s straight talk as refreshing as I do.

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