If the Missouri Department of Transportation improved its sources of biodiesel, the department would be able to meet a legislative mandate requiring 75 percent of its diesel vehicle fleet and heavy equipment be fueled with B-20 – biodiesel.
That suggestion is part of a list of best practices being developed for MoDOT by UMR researcher Scott Grasman. Last year, biodiesel accounted for 51 percent of the 6 million gallons the department consumed.
“B-20 is more environmentally neutral and has lower greenhouse emissions,” Grasman explains. “Although biodiesel is probably not the best long-run alternative fuel source, it’s a more renewable fuel that can come from vegetable oils, animal fats, or really any biomass. That’s one reason it’s a good regional alternative.”
While biodiesel may be better for the environment, the alternative fuel does have its disadvantages. First, vehicles and equipment powered by biodiesel have lower fuel economy and power. That loss of power, although small, may be problematic for heavy equipment like snowplows and bulldozers. Biodiesel can also be more expensive than regular diesel, a fact the Missouri legislature took into consideration when mandating its use.
As part of the research, Grasman and Sundaresan Sadashivam, a graduate student in engineering management, contacted other states that have a state biodiesel program to determine any issues they faced with year-round use. According to the survey responses, quality was the issue that respondents felt was most important. Nearly all of the states that responded said that all the biodiesel they use should meet the American Society for Testing and Materials’ biodiesel standards.