FARM SCIENCE REVIEW: Ohio revs up its use of biodiesel


COLUMBUS – With the Ohio Farm Science Review as his backdrop, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft said Sept. 20 the Ohio Department of Transportation will integrate alternative fuels into its fleet.
By executive order, the governor asked ODOT to use at least 1 million gallons of biodiesel fuel and 30,000 gallons of ethanol per year, and to purchase only new cars that are able to run on both unleaded fuel and ethanol.
Big user. ODOT uses about 4 million gallons of diesel fuel a year to fuel its 4,200 pieces of heavy equipment that can run on biodiesel or diesel fuel. The equipment includes pick-up trucks, dump trucks (snow plows) and off-road equipment.
The department has been testing the use of alternative fuels since 1999, said Director Gordon Proctor.
Ethanol use. As part of the 1999 pilot program, ODOT installed an ethanol tank in Columbus for use in sedans and small cars. At the same time, it began acquiring flex-fuel passenger vehicles that can operate on either normal gasoline or fuel blended with high levels of ethanol.
ODOT now owns 193 flex-fuel vehicles and requires all new sedans purchased be flex-fuel. As part of the governor’s initiative to further invest in alternative fuels, ODOT will now add an ethanol tank as it constructs new district offices around the state.
Early problems. In the early stages of the pilot program, ODOT dealt with some setbacks in using biodiesel that caused the fuel to “gel” in the wintertime as well as some plugging of equipment filters.
Technology has advanced far enough to overcome these problems and ODOT has not discovered any limiting factors that would prohibit the widespread use of alternative fuels, Proctor said.


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