Tahoe Resort Sells Biodiesel to the Public

Northstar-at-Tahoe sells B10 biodiesel after success with resort's shuttle bus

Published: 31-Dec-2003

After a successful pilot program last season in which five of Northstar-at-Tahoe's shuttle buses ran on biodiesel fuel - an alternative to petroleum-based diesel fuels - the resort's gas station is now selling biodiesel to the public.

The response to date has not been overwhelming; however, Northstar Transportation Manager Bill Goodwin hopes that as word gets out, more locals and visitors will try the alternative fuel in their diesel vehicles.

"So far, we've had zero complaints," Goodwin said of Northstar's B10 biodiesel fuel, which is mixed with traditional diesel fuel in a ratio of 10 percent pure biodiesel to 90 percent traditional diesel.

Biodiesel fuels are made primarily from vegetable oils - often from soy beans - through a process called transesterification, whereby biodiesel (chemically known as methyl esters) is separated from glycerin.

Because biodiesel is made from vegetable oil, most of which is produced in the United States, proponents see it as a way of alleviating the U.S. reliance on foreign petroleum, while cutting down on diesel emissions.

According to Web site www.biodiesel.org, biodiesel has lower emissions than petroleum diesel, is derived from renewable resources, is biodegradable and works in conventional diesel engines. The one caveat is that pure biodiesel fuel can degrade natural rubber hoses and gaskets that are sometimes found in pre-1994 vehicles. Therefore, it is not recommended for vehicles containing these items. Blends of B20 biodiesel (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent diesel) have not exhibited these problems and can be used in all diesel engines with no modifications.

Because the Northstar gas station will be offering the B10 blend, they expect there will be no negative effects. Goodwin claims there was no lack of power or performance in any of the vehicles running on the biodiesel during last year's pilot program in which the company used a B20 blend in its shuttle buses. In fact, transportation employees noticed that some of the older buses actually ran better on the biodiesel blend than on traditional diesel fuel.

Goodwin expects that if everything goes well with the B10 blend they are now selling, the station will soon return to the B20 blend they used before.

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