4 minutes with… Kelly Takaya King, Vice President, Pacific Biodiesel Technologies

396f237Tell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Created on Maui in 1995 to recycle waste cooking oil into renewable fuel, Pacific Biodiesel is now the oldest biodiesel company in America and has since focused on advancing process technology as well as feedstock and co-product development. Our community-based biodiesel model has become a standard for the sustainable biodiesel industry.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

Having co-founded Pacific Biodiesel with my husband Robert King, I serve as Vice President of Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, LLC, and Director of Communications which include:

• Marketing

• Public Relations

• New Project Development

• Strategic Planning

• Legislative Liaison

My current focus is agriculture-related projects (i.e. feedstock development), including overseeing a Congressional appropriation in collaboration with the U.S. military to develop biodiesel fuel crops in Hawaii as an energy security buffer. I’m also working on commercialization of a co-product developed under a SBIR grant that holds great promise as a solution to the taro farmers’ soil amendment and apple snail problems.

As Chair of the non-profit Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, my goal for this year is to establish at least 3 pilot demonstration sites for our newly-developed sustainability certification program.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?  

The industry needs to differentiate ASTM biodiesel quality and establish credibility with the OEMs. This support, along with a sustained incentive such as a long-term FET credit and/or a solid incremental RVO is crucial to expansion of accessible renewable fuel.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change? 

Eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies/incentives that are currently embedded in statute.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?  

Locally produced biodiesel gives every driver the opportunity to participate in “the change they want to see” on a daily basis. Customers, employees, partner businesses, investors and supporters constantly thank our company for offering them hope for a better tomorrow!

Where are you from? 

I was born in Gardena, California and spent my teens in Santa Barbara before I moved to Maui on my own when at 19.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway?

My pathway was Journalism and Graphics. I used to think I would spend most of my career writing the great American novel. I actually did work as a graphic artist for a short time in Santa Barbara. Journalism is a great major for anyone going into any aspect of Communications.

Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?

My husband is my best mentor in business administration. I have learned how to apply focus, patience and integrity which sometimes means saying no to a potential great opportunity but always turns out for the best.

I admire my mother’s sister, an accomplished artist and playwright who used her craft to portray the barbarity of the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. She is a beautiful, intelligent and extremely articulate example of survival.

Others in my life who influenced me are:

• Max Goldberger – a brilliant hydrogen scientist who lived on Hawaii Island and inspired us to build Big Island Biodiesel as a fuel that is safer than hydrogen and more efficient than solar

• Willie Nelson – when I asked him if he regretted selling the song “Crazy” to Patsy Cline for $50, he said “no, I needed the money”. He’s a wise man who, for the most part, lives life with no regrets!

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?  

Act out of love, keep communications open and focus on doing the right thing for the greater good. Both times I experienced the scariest moments of my life were with my children, first our daughter and then our son. Without going into embarrassing details, suffice it to say that these were low times in their young lives that went beyond depression and required calm, reserve and understanding. What got me through was knowing that they knew their parents love them and were trying to do the best we could. Both incidents turned out all right and I believe they learned good lessons as well.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry?  

I used to play competitive tennis before I hurt my rotator cuff. Now my husband and I have taken up stand-up paddling. I have always loved snorkeling in Maui waters — swimming with turtles, whales and dolphins is a life altering experience!

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Songs My Mother Taught Me, by my aunt Wakako Yamauchi

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?  

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins

The Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield

read The Kite Runner recently and really enjoyed it!

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?  

There are too many great places to have a favorite, but I love just staying at home on Maui when I have a break!

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