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Transportation Services Now Using Biodiesel

Transportation Services is now using biodiesel in its diesel fuel tank.

On August 20, 2009, Transportation and Parking Services at Lehigh received its first delivery of diesel fuel containing biodiesel. What exactly is biodiesel? According to EPA, biodiesel is derived from plant or animal fat-based oils, though most biodiesel made in the U.S. is from soybean oil. Environmental benefits of using biodiesel are that it is renewable, is a natural substitute for petroleum-based fuel, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and significantly reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Running vehicles on biodiesel is different from vegetable oil because biodiesel undergoes a refining process called etherification, in which an alcohol, such as ethanol or methanol, and a catalyst converts oil into biodiesel. Biodiesel is also certified by EPA.

Though biodiesel is slightly more expensive than the diesel fuel it used before, Transportation and Parking Services switched to a biofuel blend as one of its contributions to the University’s conservation efforts. “Requests from proactive students to make greener choices played a role in our decision-making,” said Director of Transportation Services, Chris Christian.

Lehigh Transportation and Parking Services has one diesel tank that now contains the biodiesel blend. Not only does this change affect Lehigh bus service vehicles, but it also impacts any and every diesel truck that receives fuel from that station, such as Brickman trucks. EPA says that biodiesel offers improved engine performance and lubrication, but a small decrease in fuel economy. Transportation and Parking Services is prepared to see this slight decrease in fuel economy in the future, but stresses that the use of biodiesel has so many other environmental benefits that the minor decrease in fuel economy is justifiable.

Christina Bianco