While corn and ethanol have grabbed many headlines in the past year, potential for soy biodiesel is revving up, as well. The growing renewable fuels industry is a positive one for the U.S. economy by keeping more money at home vs. being spent on foreign oil and by being environmentally sustainable.

Nationwide, soy biodiesel fuels approximately 700 commercial fleets, and more than 3,000 U.S. fuel distributors and retailers carry biodiesel. The soybean checkoff-funded National Biodiesel Board (NBB) estimates that 300-plus million gallons of biodiesel were used in the U.S. in 2007. Projections for the year ahead top 350 million gallons.

To help promote the availability and use of biodiesel, the soybean industry has worked with numerous campaigns and partnerships that tout the benefits of biodiesel. One such effort in 2007 was the Iowa Soybean Association's (ISA) co-sponsorship of the Soy Biodiesel 225 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton in September. This was the second year for ISA's involvement in the event, and it had the opportunity to speak to attendees about biodiesel during pre-race ceremonies.

“We see our sponsorship of the Soy Biodiesel 225 as a great way to build awareness of the biodiesel industry,” says John Heisdorffer, president elect of ISA.

Another promotional partnership in 2007 was with the National Tractor Pullers Association (NTPA). The United Soybean Board (USB) and soybean checkoff helped sponsor six events across the Midwest and South in the NTPA's Championship Series. Through the partnership, USB used the tagline “Do something nice for your engine,” and promoted the quality and performance of soy biodiesel to an audience of mainstream diesel users.

Of the partnership, Jack Reed, USB director and a soybean farmer from Salem, IN, says: “We are experiencing record soy biodiesel usage among farmers, and we hope to carry our momentum to mainstream diesel users who are interested in fuel quality and engine performance.”

ENGINE ENDORSEMENTS

Industry support of soy biodiesel continues to grow — with more than 20 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) across the nation approving soy biodiesel use at various blend levels in their engines.

For example, every major auto manufacturer approves the use of at least a B5 blend (5% soy biodiesel and 95% petroleum diesel). And, agricultural equipment manufacturers are also onboard in support of soy biodiesel, as Arctic Cat, Case IH, Cummins, Caterpillar, John Deere, Kubota and New Holland have recommended soy biodiesel use in their engines. Several of these companies support up to a B20 blend.

Chuck Myers, USB vice chairman and a soybean farmer from Lyons, NE, says building relationships with OEMs will be key to boosting biodiesel's future. “One of the most important moves in building the industry includes soybean checkoff efforts to provide OEMs with research to support the use of soy biodiesel in engines. Without their (OEMs) support, we would not be able to take biodiesel to the next level,” he says.

THE BUS BANDWAGON

Also big for the biodiesel market are the fleets of buses across the nation — from school buses to mass transit — that are making the switch to cleaner-burning biodiesel fuels. And, several such buses have been turned into billboards promoting that they are proudly powered by soybean-based biodiesel.

This past fall, San Francisco announced that its city fleet of 1,500 vehicles — from ambulances to street sweepers and buses — made the switch to B20, a mix of 20% soy-based biofuel and 80% petroleum diesel fuel. City officials said the switch was made in hopes of helping to reduce toxic emissions.

Seattle, Chicago, Denver and New York City have also employed some biodiesel-powered bus fleets, with more metropolitan areas expected to follow suit.

On the school bus front, efforts also continue to entice school districts to make the switch to biodiesel blends in their bus fleets for the health and well-being of school children. This initiative has even gained the support of well-known actress Julia Roberts, who is using her star power to shine a light on the health risks posed by diesel school buses to the children who ride them.

Roberts has supported a campaign called Citizen's School Bus, an organization working to broaden awareness for biodiesel and enabling educators, parents and policy makers to take the necessary steps to solve this critical school bus health issue. She has also helped initiate legislation in California that would mandate the use of biodiesel in all diesel school buses.

In an Elle magazine article, Roberts summed up her support for the biodiesel issue: “I just feel that any parent who's informed cannot put their kid on a school bus without saying to their school district or their congressman, ‘Hey, man, you gotta clean this up for us!’ Because it's too easy not to fix.”

For more information, visit www.citizensschoolbus.org.

NEAT TO KNOW ABOUT BIODIESEL

  • Biodiesel blends run smoothly in engines across the U.S. with the most common being a B2 blend (2% soy biodiesel with 98% petroleum diesel).

  • Advantages of using soy biodiesel include improved engine lubricity and performance compared with most diesel fuels, a reduction in air pollution and increased handling safety.

  • In 2005, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to require a 2% biodiesel blend. They are considering boosting that to 20% by 2015.

GOING THE EXTRA “GREEN” MILE

As today's businesses begin to put extra emphasis on eco-friendly practices, a new SmartWay Grow & Go program has been designed to help with that effort. The program will match businesses that want to ship “green” with truckers who use biodiesel. The match-making program is a team effort between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Biodiesel Board.

The goal of the SmartWay Grow & Go program is to increase energy efficiency while significantly reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution, as well as reducing U.S. dependence on petroleum.

Of the unique program, Mitch Greenberg, EPA SmartWay program manager, says, “Grow & Go was developed to help increase the use and acceptance of biodiesel in the freight industry, and to educate truckers and small fleets on the benefits of biofuels. It became clear there was a need to help shippers identify carriers using renewable fuels.”

Likewise, on the trucking side, Andy Meyer, vice president of business development for Green Initiatives Safe Handling, Inc., says, “Partnering with the EPA SmartWay Grow & Go program is a great way for us to learn fuel-saving techniques that help reduce emissions as well. Our customers are keenly interested in working with sustainable suppliers and our partnership with EPA SmartWay Grow & Go is one more reason for them to use us for their transportation needs.”

Members of EPA SmartWay Grow & Go include owner-operators, trucking fleets, suppliers, brokers and anyone who is interested in less fuel use, emissions reduction and sustainable trucking practices. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/smartway/growandgo/.