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Bouncing Across West Texas
by Michael David McGuire

(NEW YORK, NY) To meet Graham Towerton is to get a glimpse of an easier, safer, more cost-effective future for both industry and agriculture… and he is convinced that he can help lead the way by using plant based derivatives instead of the higher cost petroleum based products now commonly in use for industrial and agricultural applications.  “See that field over there,” Towerton exclaims as we speed along a dusty dry back country road in the north part of the Texas Panhandle.  “That is wasted land for the farmer right now…but, as we build these biodiesel plants, that farmer can turn that idle land into seed oil cash crops.  And we’ll be doing that by next year.”

I had taken an assignment to scout new technology leaders in the American Midwest.  My first stop was with a hog farmer in Kansas… followed by a long drive through the boonies of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to meet up with Towerton at his custom chemical blending plant in Amarillo, TX.  I soon learned that one doesn’t go much of anywhere in Texas without getting up early and driving long hours on narrow little farm to market roads.  My first day with Graham Towerton was a real lesson in farmer-style work ethic and the value of a back country four wheel drive vehicle.

Our first stop, in what turned out to be a grueling 14 hour tour of half of West Texas, was in the little town of Spearman, TX… population maybe 3,000 if one counted the cats and dogs and strangers passing through.  “This is the future I was telling you about,” said Towerton, as we bounced into the rough parking lot of an old warehouse down by the abandoned railroad tracks that pass through town.  “This is the key to keeping cash in these rural areas.  Not just here in Texas, but throughout the US Heartland”.

As I climbed down from Towerton’s high perched truck, he explains what he likes to call the cycle of prosperity.  “The local farmers pool their funds to build the local biodiesel plant.  They now automatically have a market for their seed oil crops.  The seed oil crop goes to a pressing facility…employing local people… who then ship the raw oil to the biodiesel plant… where, again, local employees make the biodiesel… which is then sold on the open market for a profit.”  Towerton explains his whole concept with such ease and confidence that I can’t help but wonder why everyone else hasn’t already come up with the same idea.  “Now here’s the best part,” Towerton says, pointing to a stack of industrial sized totes sitting next to the biodiesel warehouse.  “The by-products of biodiesel manufacturing are even more valuable on the commodities market than the biodiesel itself.  Come on in and I’ll show you.”

Towerton led me to the side door entrance to the warehouse, where he keyed open a locked door and led me into his biodiesel manufacturing plant.  “Doesn’t look much like what you thought, does it?” Towerton asked as he moved quickly through the big warehouse space turning on bright overhead lights.  I didn’t want to tell him that it reminded me of the “Pumps and Pipes” set I had as a kid in the early 1960’s.  “Anyone, anywhere can put one of these plants into their home region for less than $5 million… and likely double their initial investment in less than three years…while helping build a strong local farm economy”.

As Graham Towerton explained to me the technology behind the local manufacturing of biodiesel, I began to see both the brilliance and simplicity of the plan and implementation system that he was offering.  I was also struck by the obvious.  “America can wean itself from the dependence on imported oil,” Towerton said, beating me to the punch on my own thought.  “Help for the local farmers, employment opportunities for local communities, lower fuel prices, reliable fuel supplies and energy independence for America.”

I would have to rate Graham Towerton as one of the most intriguing and interesting people that I have met on my adventures around the world.  My day with him carried on for several more hours and a couple hundred more miles of rural roads… through an oil field remediation project, a farm talk about increasing plant health with healthier soil, a good Texas-style meat and slaw lunch at Money's Barbeque Pit in Perryton, a chamber of commerce speech and a late night dinner with his wife, Melisa, and their five kids at a local all you can eat Chinese Buffet.  As I said my goodbyes… for my long drive back… the sun was just setting below the heavy overcast sky, flooding the Texas landscape with a brilliant reddish light that I have personally only seen in Texas… and then only rarely.  “Might pretty,” he said as he shook my hand.  Mighty pretty, indeed… and a great new future to boot, I thought, as I hit the road on my own continuing adventure.

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Michael David McGuire is a New York and Los Angeles-based freelance journalist.  To read more articles… and to hear broadcast commentary by Mr. McGuire… please visit:

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