Resort gas station offers biodiesel
After a successful pilot program last season in which five of Northstar’s shuttle buses ran on biodiesel fuel – an alternative to petroleum-based diesel fuels – the gas station at Northstar is now selling biodiesel to the public.
So far the response has not been overwhelming; however, Northstar Transportation Manager Bill Goodwin hopes that as word gets out, more locals and visitors will try the alternative fuel in their diesel vehicles.
“So far we’ve had zero complaints,” Goodwin said of Northstar’s B10 biodiesel fuel, which is mixed with traditional diesel fuel in a ratio of 10 percent pure biodiesel to 90 percent traditional diesel.
Biodiesel fuels are made primarily from vegetable oils – often from soy beans – through a process called transesterification, whereby biodiesel (chemical name: methyl esters) is separated from glycerin in accordance with industry specifications. Because biodiesel is made from vegetable oil, most of which is produced in the United States, proponents see it as a way of alleviating our reliance on foreign petroleum, while cutting down on diesel emissions at the same time.
According to information available at the biodiesel.org Web site (www.biodiesel.org), biodiesel has lower emissions compared to petroleum diesel, is derived from renewable resources, is biodegradable and works in conventional diesel engines. The one caveat is that pure biodiesel fuel can degrade natural rubber hoses and gaskets that are sometimes found in pre-1994 vehicles; therefore, it is not recommended for vehicles containing these items. Blends of B20 biodiesel (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent diesel) have not exhibited these problems and can be used in all diesel engines with no modifications.
Because the Northstar gas station will be offering the B10 blend, they expect there will be no negative effects. Goodwin claims there was no lack of power or performance in any of the vehicles running on the biodiesel during last year’s pilot program in which the company used a B20 blend in its shuttle buses. In fact, transportation employees noticed that some of the older buses actually ran better on the biodiesel blend than on traditional diesel fuel.
Goodwin expects that if everything goes well with the B10 blend they are now selling, the station will soon return to the B20 blend they used before.
“If we are successful with this, we will probably go to the 20 percent level,” he said.
Northstar’s pilot program and its continuing use of the biodiesel fuel is due to its commitment to protecting the environment, say Northstar representatives. The biodiesel blend that Northstar is selling and using in its entire fleet this year is more expensive than traditional diesel fuel; however, the resort sees the chance to reduce the amount of emissions from its buses as a way to keep their operations as environmentally friendly as possible.
Right now, Goodwin doesn’t think too many people know about the availability of the alternative fuel.
“We have inquiries about it, but so far no one is driving in from I-80 yet,” Goodwin said.
The biodiesel blend has been available to the general public at the Northstar gas station since Oct. 1, and visitors to Northstar can see signs promoting its availability on Northstar’s fleet of buses and at the gas station itself.
Goodwin and the rest of the staff said they hope that with all of the diesel trucks driving around Truckee and the North Shore, a lot of their owners will give the biodiesel a try.
More information on biodiesel fuels can be found at http://www.biodiesel.org.
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