Drive Green? Biodiesel Use Grows in Houston

It's been around for more than a century, but pure biodiesel, known as B-100, is making a slow comeback thanks to prices that are about the same as petroleum diesel and more drivers wanting to make a change. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, a small biodiesel filling station in the east end is a well kept secret for many local alternative fuel enthusiasts.

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"My name is Chris Powers and I'm the proprietor of Houston Biodiesel. We were the first to provide pure biodiesel, B-100, to Houstonians. It's been an uphill battle but it's coming around."

Mr. Powers filling his tank with biodieselPowers is talking and working at the same time, a one-man operation at an old converted junkyard tucked behind a neighborhood off Navigation. He's helping long-haul trucker Marvin Schwork, who's from Canada, fill his big rig with 163 gallons of biodiesel.ξ

"Cleaner air and it's better for the engine itself. Better fuel all around. Truck runs better."

For the first time in a while, pure biodiesel is about the same price as regular diesel, which is attractive to customers making the switch to the fuel made out of vegetable oil or animal fat instead of petroleum products. Powers says biodiesel is for the most part much cleaner than regular diesel.

"You're talking about a 78-percent reduction in net CO2 emissions. It's a renewable energy. You put out CO2, the plants absorb CO2 to grow and then you burn it again in your vehicle. It's a cycle. There's a 70-percent reduction in hydrocarbons, 40-percent reduction in carbon monoxide, a 50-percent reduction in particulate, that black smoke. These are numbers using pure biodiesel."

A tank of biodieselPowers even teaches a class once a month on how to homebrew biodiesel, a relatively simple process, he says, for people who want to make their own fuel.

"If you can make beer then you can make biodiesel. It's not a similar process, but the talents involved are very close.ξ It's not for everybody. It's like starting a new hobby. A lot of people come to our biodiesel workshop just to see what it's all about. They take the workshop and say this is not for me and they walk away from it or they go, oh, I could do this and they get involved and start making their own biodiesel."ξξ

For most drivers, biodiesel isn't an option. Only Volkswagen, Mercedes and Jeep sell passenger vehicles in the U-S that can burn biodiesel. Kristen Andreasen owns a vehicle that uses biodiesel and says she's glad she made the switch.

"It's something that my husband's been using for probably a year and a half, maybe even two years and I just recently got a diesel vehicle so I've exclusively only used biodiesel. I feel really good about it. The price is pretty much the same. Actually today it's a lot less than regular diesel and I live a green lifestyle, so it's one thing that I can do that just makes me feel better."ξξξξξ

There's more information about biodiesel and pictures on our website, KUHF.org.

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