Letter: A green gas station and thinking outside the “box”

Great ideas are born of necessity, and scarcity. I am Mario Zulian. I own Eco Steam Wash, the car wash/detail shop at the Conoco gas station where Base2 lodge was to be. I watched this process closely since the first public meeting. It was a prodigious and rich political event.

Mark Hunt and team created a unique lodging concept. They presented it professionally and eloquently, engaging a variety of supporters. They explained that they wanted to “give back” to Aspen something that our town really needed.

The City Council and mayor were meticulous to make sure the project accorded with what they believed the town needed — affordable lodging. Every nuance of the project was transparent; everybody could see the project’s direction.

Citizens attended every public meeting, discussing valuable points and impacts Base2 would have in the community. Eventually, they united to deliver the message that Base2 wasn’t what the citizens really wanted at the Conoco location.

Base2 lodge was voted off the Conoco island. It won’t happen at that gas station. While I hope it comes alive somewhere else where it’s a better fit, there is something else Aspen needs that could replace Conoco.

Back to necessity, and scarcity … when Mark Hunt bought the gas station in 2014, I almost panicked! Since then I’ve been living the nightmare of trying to find another affordable location in Aspen’s core that allows car service. Mission: Impossible!

Uncertainty makes it hard to invest, hard to keep employees and hard to make long term plans. Limbo mode! I became terrified about going out of business. I was in necessity of a new location; scarcity was dominating the play; a great idea was then born: To flip the Conoco into a Green Gas Station.

I asked many people what they wanted for that location. Most just wanted it to remain a gas station, but a better one. So I developed a new start up concept, NEO — renewable fueling station. The concept is revolutionary and audacious, with potential to become the new franchise option for gas stations wanting to go green.

Here are the main elements:

• A choice of renewable fuels along with gasoline. A variety of cleaner fuels is available today, such as ethanol, methanol, Hhydrogen, CNG/LNG (natural gas) and bio diesel;

• Fair trade certified gasoline by equitable origin;

• Fast chargers for EVs such as the Tesla super chargers;

• Healthy convenience store by Wholefoods Express;

• Waterless carwash by Eco Steam Wash;

• Quick Lube oil change (used oil can power our building heater);

• Full-service station with attendants filling up your tank, checking fluids and tire pressure, also explaining about bio fuels choices;

• Recycling center to collect problematic items, such as used batteries and aerosol cans;

• Net-zero energy code, with lots of solar panels and LED lights.

Instead of demolishing the old Conoco, this project would focus on remodeling it with elegant and futuristic designs. It would save an enormous amount of resources and funds that can be used elsewhere. It would minimize the construction and noise impacts of developing the site.

Oil dependency is extremely harmful. The U.S. spends $507 billion per year in Persian Gulf military operations to protect oil supplies. Thousands of American soldiers are sent away from their families to defend middle-east oil fields. Black market oil money sponsors terrorists. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels pollute our planet.

Every major economic crisis is directly related to a substantial rise in the crude oil price. In 2008, for example, the barrel price hit a record $147. Now that it’s down to $47 you are a happy camper, got a job, are buying new things. But be ready for the next crash as soon as oil price goes up again. War can make that happen quickly!

During the first major oil crisis in the 1970s when OPEC decided to cut oil supplies, Brazil took an alternative route and implemented the “pro-alcool.” They required every gas station to sell domestic ethanol made from sugar cane. Cars were adapted and competition was created at the pump. Gas prices declined and thousands of new jobs were generated. Brazil used to import 90 percent of its oil but now is 100 percent fuel self-sufficient. Brazil paid its foreign debt completely in less than 30 years and became a strong world economy. I was born and raised there. I saw it happening.

I hope Mark Hunt and Mike Haisfield hear this important message. I’m seeking the opportunity to join forces with them and make NEO — Renewable Fueling Station a reality here. As a green town, host of the AREDAY summit, I’m sure Aspen will be really proud to seed this start up in its fertile soil.

To educate yourself on this subject, watch “Pump, the Movie” on Netflix. Comments, suggestions and support can be emailed to

Mario Zulian