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The tale of a frustrated bio-diesel consumer

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Two years ago, I bought a diesel vehicle. I was living in South Dakota and the idea was to immediately become a consumer of a homegrown fuel, in this case bio-diesel. The bio-diesel produced in South Dakota is generated for the most part from soybeans, but some from sunflowers.

The vehicle was a quasi-experimental Jeep from Daimler-Chrysler. The Jeep Liberty CRD, or Common Rail Diesel, logs an SUV-impressive 30 MPG using conventional diesel fuel. I was excited to fill up that first tank with bio-diesel, but was greeted with a grim reality – there were no bio-diesel pumps in Pierre, SD. Imagine that. In the capitol city of a state many regard as a major producer of ethanol and bio-diesel, there was not a single bio-diesel pump. (I do not consider B2 bio-diesel because of the nominal amount – most diesel producers use 2% anyway because it is a better engine lubricant).

Fast-forward to today and I now live in Washington DC. Upon driving into the city, I was excited to finally fill my tank with the ‘home-grown’ fuel promise. A quick search, however, yielded more disappointment. The nearest bio-diesel fueling station…Leesburg, Virginia (and it's only B5).

So if the capitol city of a farm state/Saudi Arabia of the plains can’t pump bio-diesel, and the United States Capitol can’t pump bio-diesel, are we really getting any closer to weaning ourselves from our addiction to fossil fuels?

The picture on why becomes clearer when you read this much circulated Wall Street Journal article [subscription required] that places the blame squarely on the big oil companies who through franchise agreements with filling stations simply won’t allow a competing product.

While bio-diesel will eventually not be the answer to our environmental and energy independence challenges, it is an attractive transition with its sourcing possibilities (especially compared to the news of ethanol’s potential environmental impact).

I just wish I could use it.

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