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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Biofuels may help offset high gas prices

This devastating hurricane season with its record high gas prices has riveted the attention of the American public on energy availability and cost. Now as never before, people are looking to downsize their cars and drive less in order to save money. Recent weeks have seen a flurry of stories in magazines and newspapers extolling the virtues of bicycling and hybrid cars along with the promise of energy alternatives like fuel cells and wind power. Some of these technologies are too expensive or experimental to provide much in the way of immediate relief from high energy prices. Other gas saving options, like bicycling, mass transit or car pooling, are just not practical for everyone.

One exception, Biofuel, is gaining popularity across the country however, as civic leaders, business and consumers look for ways to lower fuel costs without investing heavily in new technology. Biofuels are derived from plant sources such as corn and soy. Cars use these fuels in the same way that they use conventional fuel. Many industries and organization across the country are using biofuels to help offset high gasoline prices which in turn helps ease the impact of shortages of the petroleum based supply caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

For example, in Nebraska, a combination of high crude oil prices and tax breaks on corn based fuels has made gas which is 10% ethanol (corn-based gasoline) about 10 cents per gallon cheaper than regular unleaded gas. School buses in Chicago have recently switched to a biodiesel mixture (20% biodiesel/80% conventional diesel) in an effort both to save money and create less pollution.

Truckers are getting in on the act, buying more and more biodiesel for their trucks. According to the National Biodiesel Board, biodiesel is available at over 450 retail pumps from more than 1400 petroleum distributors in the US, and growing. Some 500 commercial and government organizations currently use biofuels in their fleet.

You can support this growing trend by using biofuels where appropriate for your car (make sure to check with your auto-mechanic). Urge community leaders to switch their fleets to biofuel if they have not already done so. And finally, support companies, like L.L. Bean, that use biofuels to ship their products. For more information on biofuel, go to www.biodiesel.org

By Jodey Byers - Omaha
Greener Magazine Staff Writer

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