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Posted on  

June 14, 2002


06/10/02 - WASHINGTON -- Logisticians at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., are the latest to embrace the future with renewable fuels by mixing a bit of soybean oil into their diesel tanks.

Congress, through the Energy Policy Act of 1992, tasked the Air Force, along with all other federal agencies, to take the lead in finding ways to reduce the nation's dependence on petroleum and improve air quality.

"Tinker's delivery of 'biodiesel' is the (latest) piece of the Air Force's alternative fuels program," said Col. Thomas Keller, chief of the infrastructure and vehicles division within the Air Force's installations and logistics directorate. Biodiesel is a product made through a chemical reaction of alcohol with vegetable oils, fats, or greases. The Air Force currently uses B-20, a blend of 80 percent diesel and 20 percent soybean-derived biodiesel. Although a vehicle may burn as much B-20 as it did standard diesel, actual petroleum consumption is reduced.

Tinker joins Peterson AFB, Colo., Vandenberg AFB, Calif., Patrick AFB, Fla., and Scott AFB, Ill., as the service's leaders in the alternative fuels movement, and more bases are coming on line.

"The beauty of biodiesel is that it requires no vehicle modification," Keller said. "You can take the same dump truck that's burned diesel for 10 years and put biodiesel in it without changing a thing, and we're getting alternate fuel vehicle credit (from the Energy Policy Act of 1992)."

Another benefit is lower maintenance, thanks to biodiesel cleaning carbon out of engines and allowing them to run more efficiently, said Senior Master Sgt. Rex Curry, chief of the vehicle maintenance policy and procedures team.

"Biodiesel also has more lubricity than basic diesel, so things don't wear out as quickly," Curry said. "At some point (in the future), industry- wide, it is extremely likely that you won't be able to buy diesel without it being blended with (at least 2 percent of) some bio-mass type fuel.

"It's kind of like ethanol," he said. "In some places, like Colorado, you get 10 percent ethanol (blended into gasoline) all the time."

Reducing the amount of diesel fuel consumption is just as much an ethical issue as it is a Congressional mandate, Keller said.

"It's been proven that diesel (exhaust) is a carcinogen," he said. "We have school buses full of children (driving) around, and we're (exposing them) to cancer."

"There's a study that offers proof that buses burning (standard) diesel fuel (are) 46 times higher in carcinogens than a bus burning biodiesel," Curry said. "We can, literally, save children's lives by using biodiesel."

Besides eliminating carcinogens from exhaust, the fumes have a pleasant side effect.

"It smells like whatever the 20 percent (additive) was," Curry said. "If it's soy, it smells like soy; if it's chicken fat, it smells like Kentucky Fried Chicken going down the road. (According to) one article, the biodiesel smelled like popcorn."

By joining the biodiesel revolution, Tinker is helping ensure the Air Force will meet one of the act's tougher mandates: that 75 percent of new vehicle acquisitions be alternative fuel-capable by 1999. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 was amended in 1998 to give agencies one alternative fuel vehicle acquisition credit for every 2,250 gallons of B-20 used.

"We're going to get very close (to meeting our goal) this year," said Lt. Col. William Fisher, chief of the vehicle policy team. "With increased use of these biodiesel fuels, I predict, we'll exceed them next year."



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