KNOXVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tennessee Department of Transportation this month unveiled a biodiesel pilot fleet program at its maintenance facilities in Knoxville and Johnson City. Biodiesel, made from renewable sources such as soybean oil and other materials, burns cleaner than traditional diesel and requires little or no engine modifications. “We hope to take a giant leap forward in decreasing emissions and reducing our dependency on foreign oil, plus helping out American farmers. If the program works it will be a win-win situation,” said Ed Cole, TDOT chief of environment and planning. “I’m optimistic that when this study is complete, we’ll eventually be pumping biodiesel at TDOT facilities across the state.” During the pilot program, more than 130 on-road vehicles, including dump trucks, snowplows and HELP trucks, will use the biodiesel B20 mix. B20 is a blend of 20-percent soy bean oil and 80-percent diesel fuel. The department plans to include off-road construction equipment in the study early next year. Because of recent advancements in production, biodiesel has become more economical and is nearly equal in cost to conventional diesel fuel. Biodiesel emits lower levels of carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, and particulate matter than regular petroleum diesel. “Mobile sources of air pollution, especially diesel engines, are major contributors to Tennessee’s air quality problems,” said Cole. “Using biodiesel is one way TDOT can show leadership in reducing vehicle emissions and in protecting public health and our environment.” Members of the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Agriculture teamed up with TDOT to show support for the program at news conferences in the two cities. "Protecting the quality of the air we breathe is essential for our health and our environment," said Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner Paul Sloan. "Air quality is an important issue that we're working hard to address at both state and local levels. By starting to use cleaner burning biodiesel, TDOT is taking a significant step toward cleaner air." "This represents a growing opportunity to develop new markets for Tennessee farmers who have the capacity to supply the raw materials needed for the production of biodiesel and other bio-based fuels like ethanol," added state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens. "We are working with our sister agencies to encourage both increased production and use of bio-based fuels. Tennessee has the potential to be a leader in this area and we want to take full advantage of it." The department will use an estimated 13,500 gallons of biodiesel each month during the study. “Some of the early drawbacks to biodiesel were some ‘gelling’ in the wintertime, but technology has advanced to the point where biodiesel has become very reliable,” said TDOT Region One Transportation Director Fred Corum. “We are very pleased the department chose East Tennessee as the site for the biodiesel study.”

Originally posted on Fleet Financials