In July of 2009, the University of Tennessee opened the area's first Biodiesel Production Pilot Plant. This community based plant is a model for campus sustainability. The plant was built with an Alternative Fuels Innovations Grant from TDEC in partnership with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), and is located on the UT agricultural campus.
Biodiesel is an EPA-certified fuel that can be produced from domestic renewable resources such as soybeans, algae, vegetable oil, used cooking oil and animal fat. UT students collect used vegetable oil from campus food services and area restaurants and process it into biodiesel fuel for use in UT and other diesel fuel vehicles.
The University of Tennessee Biodiesel Plant has several mutually beneficial pay-offs:
- Increased use of cleaner alternative fuels
- Decreased University fuel costs
- Hands-on education & research for UT students
- Reduced use of foreign oil (every little bit helps)
- Increased community health through the reduction of harmful emissions
Biodiesel can be blended with petroleum diesel at any level to create a biodiesel blend. Pure biodiesel is referred to as B100 or "neat". While biodiesel can be blended at any percentage, B2, B5, B20 are the most common blends. For example, B20 contains 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum.
Biodiesel as B20 or less can be used in any diesel engine without any modifications. There are many vehicles which currently use diesel engines such as buses, delivery trucks, waste disposal and recycling trucks, construction and farm equipment, heavy-duty freight hauling, boats and even passenger vehicles. Biodiesel cannot be used as a substitute fuel for gasoline-powered engines.
Alcoa, Inc., Knox County, and KUB all have biodiesel fleets. There are currently 21 biodiesel stations in east Tennessee, including Alcoa (1), Maryville (4), Knoxville (1), and Vonore (1).
With the U.S. Senate poised to consider legislation that includes reinstatement of the biodiesel tax incentive, a new poll released by Stanford University found that 84% of respondents favored federal tax breaks to encourage alternative energy.
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that has completed the health effects testing required by the Clean Air Act. It contains no petroleum and is environmentally friendly; biodegradable, nontoxic, and nonvolatile. According to SACE, when used in a conventional diesel engine, biodiesel reduces carbon dioxide by 78%, carbon monoxide by 40-50%, and sulfur emissions by 100%. The cancer-causing potential and overall ozone forming potential are lower than conventional diesel by 94% and 50%, respectively.
According to an American Lung Association report based on 2006-2008 figures, Knoxville ranked in the Top 25 for Most Polluted cities by ozone and year-round particle pollution. Cleaner air is crucial to all of us who live, play, and work here. Thanks UT, for being part of the solution towards healthier living.
Fun Fact: Diesel cars were originally designed to run off of peanut oil, but diesel fuel ended up being cheaper than peanut oil.