Fueling independence

Linda Longton, Editor
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Oil prices hit seven-month highs in March over concerns of a potential military conflict with Iran after the oil-rich nation took 15 British sailors hostage. The situation underscored our country’s dependency on foreign oil and our vulnerability to the whims of the leaders of oil-exporting nations.

The average citizen can’t do much about international energy politics. But by using biodiesel, some truckers are reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Produced from domestic, renewable resources, such as soybeans, biodiesel contains no petroleum and is as much as 75 percent cleaner than fossil-derived fuels.

Despite its apparent benefits, biodiesel has its detractors. One criticism is that the fossil fuel needed to produce it is equal to that saved from its use. But proponents say that as technology gets better, less fossil fuel will be needed to refine it. Biodiesel also is more expensive than traditional diesel, but as diesel prices continue to rise, biodiesel becomes more cost-competitive.

And there are concerns about quality. Minnesota, which mandates that all diesel fuel sold in the state contain at least 2 percent biodiesel, had to suspend its mandate for a few months last year after truckers reported clogged fuel filters caused by off-spec biodiesel. The American Trucking Associations has called for a national biodiesel standard, but until that happens, if you’re interested in using biodiesel, make sure you buy only BQ9000 fuel certified by the National Biodiesel Board. If your engine’s still under warranty, check with your dealer for approved blends.

By the end of 2007, U.S. biodiesel demand will have tripled to more than 200 million gallons a year, according to the National Biodiesel Board. Its goal is to penetrate 5 percent of the diesel market by 2015. That would mean that all diesel now made from Iraqi oil, and a fourth of all diesel now made from Persian Gulf oil, could be replaced with home-grown biodiesel.

A group of Missouri senators wants to help achieve that goal. They introduced a bill in April that would mandate 5 percent biodiesel beginning in April 2009, if its price is not more expensive than traditional diesel. Minnesota and Washington already mandate biodiesel. Other states offer various incentives to encourage its use.

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But you don’t need to wait for a mandate. If you’re concerned about our dependence on foreign oil, consider taking a stand by fueling with biodiesel. You can find it 24/7 by calling (866) 246-3437, or by visiting this site. It’s your chance to make a difference in our nation’s energy policy.