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Letter: Concerns about gelling of biodiesel are unfounded

A recent article about how Bemidji’s school buses perform during this winter’s harsh weather raised some concerns about biodiesel, and the state’s plans to increase the required biodiesel blend from the current 5 percent blend (B5) to 10 percent (B10) this summer.

First, the state law clearly specifies that B10 will be sold only during the warm-weather months. In the winter, it’s back to the same B5 blend that virtually all diesel vehicles used during this record-breaking cold winter without problem. So any concerns that biodiesel might gel in winter temperatures are unfounded.

Another concern raised was about bacterial growth in fuel storage tanks. This isn’t just a Minnesota problem; it’s a problem in many other states. It has nothing to do with biodiesel or diesel fuel -– the problem is water.

In 2006, the federal government required all diesel fuel to be ultra-low sulfur to reduce the risk of acid rain. However, that sulfur acted as an antibiotic agent in the fuel, and its removal caused some unanticipated issues with microbe growth when the tanks contained enough water for the bacteria to grow in. Again, this happens for both biodiesel blends and traditional diesel fuels. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions and practices to eliminate this problem.

Minnesota literally wrote the book on handling and storing biodiesel in cold weather. We have the technical expertise and real-world experience to make the B5 to B10 transition smooth and without undue drama. Switching to an advanced biofuel that is cleaner-burning, locally produced and performs just as well as petroleum diesel is a win for all Minnesotans.

Robert Moffitt

Communications Director, American Lung Association in Minnesota

St. Paul