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It’s easy being green

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It’s easy being green

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April 18, 2007

University of Georgia buses are still red and black, but they're also a bit "greener" now that they're running on environmentally friendly biodiesel.

This month the university began using B20, a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel, in all 47 buses in its fleet. The switch makes UGA one of the largest users of biodiesel in the state and one of a handful of transit system operators nationwide to make such a switch.

"Biodiesel is good for the environment and good for the economy, and we're glad to be using it," said Ron Hamlin, UGA campus transit system manager. "It burns cleaner than petroleum diesel, and the biodiesel we're using comes from Georgia and benefits the state's economy."

Biodiesel is manufactured from vegetable oils, recycled restaurant greases or animal fats. The biodiesel UGA is using is derived from chicken fat produced as a byproduct of the state's poultry industry. In addition to being a renewable fuel from domestic sources, biodiesel also burns cleaner than petroleum diesel, producing less carbon dioxide, sulfur and volatile organic compounds.

The switch to biodiesel follows a successful spring 2006 pilot program in which the university ran a bus on a biodiesel blend. Last month the manufacturer of the engines that power UGA buses announced that its warranty would allow the use of a blend of up to 20 percent biodiesel, so Hamlin contacted Athens-based Boswell Oil to set up a purchasing contract. Fuel prices fluctuate, but right now biodiesel is cheaper than petroleum diesel, costing $2.15 a gallon instead of $2.30 a gallon.

In Georgia, the university's bus system is second only to Atlanta's MARTA in number of riders. Hamlin estimates that the UGA fleet will carry eight million passengers this year and will use 300,000 gallons of fuel.

With the switch to B20, the university is reducing the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide it releases by nearly 16 percent per year, or 967,000 pounds annually. The average car releases 12,100 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, meaning that UGA's switch to B20 is the equivalent of removing 80 cars from Athens roads.

The switch to biodiesel reduces the fleet's annual sulfur emissions by 20 percent, or 264 pounds; its hydrocarbon emissions by 20 percent, or 503 pounds; and its particulate matter emissions by 12 percent, or 384 pounds.

"We're doing our best to clean up the environment," Hamlin said. "The environmental benefit of riding a bus instead of taking a car is considerable, and by reducing our emissions we're making it even better."