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August 25, 2005
Study: Biodiesel Pollutes Less

Study: Biodiesel Pollutes Less

By Judith Kohler, Associated Press Writer

(AP) DENVER The preliminary findings of a federal study released Tuesday show fuel produced from crops generate less pollution than conventional diesel fuel, boosting a biodiesel company's hopes that its fuel could help lessen the country's dependence on foreign oil.

The first phase of a two-year study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden shows the fuel by Blue Sun Biodiesel cut carbon monoxide by 32 percent, hydrocarbons by 40 percent and particulates by 24 percent, said Jeff Probst, the company's president and chief executive.

The lab also found that public buses in Boulder using Blue Sun B20 produced 4 percent less nitrogen oxide, a major source of ozone, which creates health problems for children and people with respiratory troubles.

George Douglas, NREL spokesman, said the drop in nitrogen oxide was a surprise because boidiesel usually produces more of the pollutant than regular diesel fuel. Scientists will continue to track that as well as fuel economy and vehicle maintenance during the second year of the study, he said.

While happy with the results so far, Probst said the company wants to reduce the emissions even more. He said the company, based in Fort Collins and founded four years ago, plans to keep expanding in the face of soaring oil prices, which hit $67.32 a barrel Tuesday.

"People are wondering when it's going to stop, where it's going to stop,'' Probst said at an outdoors news conference.

The backdrop was a site in lower downtown Denver where the new regional Environmental Protection Agency building is being built. Probst said the contractor is using Blue Sun bodiless during construction.

Denver uses biodiesel in city public works vehicles. The Denver school district is using the fuel in some of its buses.

Probst said William's Production and Encana Oil and Gas USA, two of the largest natural gas producers in the Rockies, and the Santa Fe Southern Railway in New Mexico are Blue Sun customers.

Democrats Mayor John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, who were both on hand for the study's release, said in addition to the environmental advantages, biodiesel is a boost for agriculture and can help cut the country's reliance on foreign oil. Salazar said the nation imports 60 percent of its oil, much of which comes from politically volatile areas.

"That's not good for our national security,'' Salazar said.

The escalating oil prices are also going to "strangle the American economy,'' he added.

Blue Sun contracts with farmers in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas who grow canola, mustard seed, flax and other oil seed plants. The company's B20 blend is 20 percent biofuel and 80 percent conventional diesel.

Probst said biodiesel can be used in regular diesel vehicles. The company sells its fuel at 13 retail outlets across Colorado; one in Santa Fe, N.M.; in Midvale and Brigham City, Utah; and Driggs, Idaho.

Noting all the interest and money being invested in biofuels, a recent study by researchers at Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley said the fuels burn more energy than they produce.

John Long, one of Blue Sun's founders, said the study was flawed. He said the generally accepted ratio, based on studies by the Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, is that it takes only one unit of energy to produce 3.2 units of biodiesel.

Douglas of the NREL said though the amounts vary, most federal studies have concluded that biodiesel generates more energy than it consumes. In other words, the energy balance is positive.

"The real issue, that seems to be avoided, is what you're trying to replace,'' Douglas said. "If you're trying to replace petroleum, then the positive balance is pretty high.''

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