fuel is being touted, however, by an increasing number of celebrities who
like the fuel to power their tour buses, according to Peter Bell, owner of
Addison-based Distribution Drive, who has supplied biodiesel to many
celebrities passing through Dallas-Fort Worth.
Just last week, Bell was called to fill Sen. John
Kerry's campaign bus with 100 gallons of B20, a popular mix of 80% regular
diesel fuel and 20% biodiesel.
Nelson uses it in all his buses and trucks.
"We've started using it exclusively," said Nelson,
in an interview with the Dallas Business Journal. He recently bought 7,500
gallons of biodiesel from Bell to sell to the public through a gas pump at
Carl's Corner, the landmark truck stop on Interstate 35 about 60 miles south
of Dallas. Nelson is friends with the owner, Carl Cornelius.
The star, in his 19th year with FarmAid to
publicize the plight of family farmers, said he likes the fuel because not
only does it reduce air pollution and cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil, it
also supports American farmers.
"This has the potential to keep us from being
dependent on foreign oil. We can grow our way out of this," Nelson said.
"This is not new, it's just been swept under the rug."
Compared to petroleum diesel, biodiesel -- made
from soybeans or even used cooking oil -- reduces carbon monoxide emissions,
carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, benzene and particulate matter
that causes respiratory damage. It also eliminates the cloud of smoke
associated with diesel vehicles and the exhaust smells like popcorn or
"It's so clean," Nelson said, "tell anybody if they
back their car into the garage, close the door, leave the motor running and
go to sleep, when they wake up in the morning they will have gained five
pounds and that's it. There's nothing dangerous about it."
Denton to buy fuel
California-based Biodiesel Industries plans to
start construction in 2005 of a 10,000-square-foot biodiesel manufacturing
plant at the city of Denton's more than 200-acre landfill south of the city
on Mayhill Road.
Powered in large part by methane gas from the
landfill, the $700,000 plant will make 3 million gallons a year. Denton will
buy 300,000 gallons a year for its fleet of diesel vehicles, said Vance
Kemler, director of solid waste management. The city is investing $670,000
in plant equipment, which it will lease back to privately held Biodiesel
Biodiesel will ramp up to full capacity "as fast as
we can get the raw materials in the door," said Charles Fiedler, operations
manager for Biodiesel Industries of Greater Dallas-Fort Worth L.L.C. It will
sell the rest through a joint-venture, wholesale distributor partnership.
The company already operates three such plants, one each in Nevada,
California and Australia.
"There will be a revenue stream from it, and the
city of Denton will share in that," said Fiedler. "It'll be profitable in a
reasonable amount of time for the investors."
Nationwide, production of biodiesel has increased
from one million gallons three years ago to 20 million gallons in 2004,
Fiedler said. At the same time, the nation consumes about 1 billion gallons
of petroleum diesel annually.
"So biodiesel is just a drop in the bucket," he
said. "The industry is really in its infancy. The production capacity is
just not there because petroleum diesel has always been a real cheap fuel --
it was basically considered a waste product of gasoline production."
The gap between the cost of biodiesel and petroleum
diesel has been a major factor dampering the clean air fuel's demand. Nelson
said he paid $2.11 a gallon for the biodiesel B20 mix at Carl's Corner.
Carl's Corner sells it for $2.25 a gallon. Regular diesel is running about
The price gap could narrow and demand increase,
however, as the House and Senate this week passed the nation's first
biodiesel tax credit, and President Bush is expected to sign it.
State and local clean air officials hesitate to
embrace the fuel, saying research shows it has higher emissions of Nitrogen
Oxide, or NOx, than petroleum diesel. NOx is generated by combustion engines
and is a precursor, in sunlight, to health-damaging ozone, or smog. A
12-county region of North Texas, including Dallas, Tarrant, Denton and
Collin counties, is not in compliance with the federal Clean Air Act for its
high ozone levels, half of it from vehicles. The area must comply by 2010 or
it loses tens of millions of dollars in federal highway funds.
Biodiesel reduces all emissions regulated by the
federal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with the exception of NOx. An
EPA study found B20 boosts NOx emissions 2%. But so-called particulate
matter is cut 10%, hydrocarbons decline 21%, and carbon monoxide is cut 11%.
"(Biodiesel) is a really neat fuel that reduces a
ton of pollution, but unfortunately it increases NOx, which contributes to
ozone, which is what we have a problem with," said Mindy Mize, senior
transportation planner with the North Central Texas Council of Governments,
the area's clean air planning agency.
The Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio,
however, found that a recently developed biodiesel additive from
Connecticut-based Clean Diesel Technologies Inc. (OTCBB: CDTI) reduced
biodiesel's NOx emissions 5% over petroleum diesel fuel.
Mize said COG doesn't have that research in hand.
"We really can't fully support (biodiesel) until we
see proof that we can bring to the higher-ups in our agency," Mize said.
The region's the worse for that, said Jake Stewart,
an alternative fuels adviser to the COG.
"The COG seems almost tunnel-visioned on the NOx
issue," Stewart said. "It's sort of the baby out with the bath water. NOx
threatens the highway funds. So they're putting all their eggs in the NOx
basket in disregard to other more harmful pollutants."