Rochester Buses Commit to Clean Air with Biodiesel

On June 1, Rochester Public Transit (RPT) switched from the 10 percent biodiesel blend required statewide to a 20 percent blend, a move that will reduce emissions from 49 transit buses while saving money for the city.  RPT officials said that the higher biodiesel content does not require the city to make major investments in vehicles or in fueling infrastructure. RPT has been using a lower percent biodiesel for a number of years. Under State law all diesel fuel will increase to 20 percent biodiesel beginning May 1, 2018. The decision was welcomed by the American Lung Association in Minnesota, which has long supported biodiesel as a clean air choice® for Minnesota motorists with diesel vehicles.

“Using this higher biodiesel blend will have an immediate effect on the air pollutants these buses emit, reducing particulate matter, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions,” said Kelly Marczak, regional senior director for clean air at the American Lung Association in Minnesota (ALAMN).  “It also represents another step away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner, more sustainable fuels produced here in Minnesota.”

Rochester’s bus fleet will use the B20 blend during warm months (through September), switching back to a 5 percent blend (B5) during the cold-weather months.  This is consistent with a statewide law, the first of its kind in the United States, which requires a minimum 10 percent biodiesel blend in the warm weather months and B5 in the winter. ALAMN noted in a recent analysis of biodiesel use in Minnesota that the state’s biodiesel standard has the same greenhouse gas emissions reduction benefits as removing 128,000 passenger vehicles from Minnesota’s roads each year. Using B20 in the summer months represents a 15 percent reduction in GHG emissions when compared to petroleum diesel. RPT stated that the use of biodiesel is consistent with its other efforts toward lower emissions and improved fuel conservation.  While the cost of biodiesel fluctuates in the marketplace, RPT expects to achieve fuel savings of between two and five cents per gallon by using a 20 percent biodiesel blend.

Biodiesel was the first biofuel designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an Advanced Biofuel, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent or more compared to petroleum diesel. Biodiesel has been approved for use as a vehicle fuel by the EPA and blends up to B20 can be used in any diesel engine without the need for any special modifications.  The renewable fuel can be made from nearly any plant-based oil or animal fat. Most of the biodiesel used in the upper Midwest is made from excess soybean oil. Minnesota has three biodiesel plants in Albert Lea, Brewster and Isanti with a combined production capacity of approximately 63 million gallons. For more information, visit www.biodiesel.mn