While biodiesel mandates have probably done more to build resistance to its use than win over its skeptics, some fleets report high levels of success with the fuel. Mesilla Valley Transportation, headquartered in Las Cruces, N.M., and captained by groundbreaking fuel economy champion Royal Jones, is one such fleet.
Jones is now running a 20% blend, known as B20, in all of his El Paso, Texas-based trucks.
He began blending biodiesel into his fuel about five years ago, before buying into a biodiesel producer and eventually taking ownership of the facility, now called Global Alternative Fuels. The company is currently producing about 13 million gallons of biodiesel from feedstock transported by railcar from all over the country.
“We make all of ours out of used cooking oil,” he says. “I can’t use everything that we make, so we sell it to other truckstops in the El Paso area.”
Jones says he hasn’t had any issues with the fuel gelling in the southern regions of the country and doesn’t worry too much about his northern flank. “Trucks running that far north would have had to buy fuel somewhere along the way before getting far enough north for the cold to matter,” he says.
Critics say biodiesel is more expensive than traditional petroleum-based diesel and lacks the cetane rating needed to maintain desired fuel mileage. Jones says he debates that, even with a 20% blend.
“I might be running a higher blend than others are, but I can’t say I’ve ever been able to detect a reduction in fuel economy because of it,” he notes. “Maybe with pure biodiesel, but at this blend, it’s a wash. As for the cost, that’s a wash too. It’s actually even cheaper [maybe when you have your own production facility], plus there a host of tax credits available for its production and use.”
Jones points out that petro-diesel produces 21 pounds of carbon dioxide for every gallon burned, but biodiesel produces zero CO2. At his 20% blend his CO2 output would be roughly 20% less than trucks running straight diesel. Asked if that should qualify for some sort of credit toward the pending GHG reduction targets, he laughs.
“I’d hope that they’d notice something like this when they are coming up with all these new standards,” he says. “If they used some logic and common sense they’d see the benefit, but common sense, logic and government are not often found in the same sentence. We can always hope and pray.”