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Soy to the World – Biodiesel Makes a Splash in the Big Apple

New York City is big. It’s big business. It’s big buildings. And, as of late, it’s big on biodiesel.

As you can imagine, a lot goes into powering the city that never sleeps. Whether it’s helping to fuel America’s largest city fleet, clearing snow off the runway at JFK in the dead of winter, or heating countless homes and buildings, biodiesel and Bioheat play an integral role in bringing the Big Apple to life.

Representatives from the Nebraska Soybean Board recently joined more than 30 farmer-leaders, as well as other representatives from the United Soybean Board (USB) and eleven other state soybean boards in New York City to see how biodiesel and Bioheat are being used to help clean up the city’s energy portfolio.

What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is America’s first advanced biofuel. Biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning replacement for traditional diesel made from a diverse mix of feedstocks such as soybean oil, animal fats, and recycled cooking oil.

Keith Kerman, the chief fleet officer and deputy commissioner for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, said biodiesel and Bioheat have played key roles in helping the city meet its GHG reduction goal. “In 2013, we reduced our emissions by 9.3%, and we fully expect that number to be over 20% after this year,” Kerman said.

On the tour, the group learned that Kerman has been a champion for biodiesel for many years. In his current role, he manages the largest city fleet in the country – more than 26,000 vehicles, 10,000 of which are diesel. Kerman said the city runs biodiesel all year round in its diesel vehicles and they don’t see any problems. “I would love to increase the blend rate. We don’t see any issues in regards to performance in the vehicles. Our biggest issue comes from how we manage storage in some of the older tanks.”

The group also met with the Department of Sanitation, another major user of biodiesel. Rocco Dirico, the deputy commissioner for the Bureau of Support Services, said he manages more than 5,500 vehicles in this fleet. Dirico said they run a B20 blend in the warm months and a B5 blend in the cold months and haven’t seen any problems. “You guys can spread the word that I said we use this fuel and everything’s fine. We don’t have any issues,” Dirico said. In typical New York fashion, Dirico doesn’t like to mince words on something he’s passionate about. To put things in perspective, the department uses roughly 9 million gallons of diesel fuel per year. At an average blend rate of 12.5%, the department burns more than 1.1 million gallons of B100 per year. That’s a lot of biodiesel!

What is Bioheat?
Bioheat is traditional home heating oil blended with biodiesel. By 2015, all buildings in New York City that use heating oil will be required to use a B5 blend of Bioheat, meaning that it contains 5% pure biodiesel. The current market for home heating oil is 4 billion gallons annually. After the implementation of the B5 in 2015, Bioheat alone will utilize 50 million gallons of pure biodiesel.

New York City has led the way in embracing alternative fuels such as biodiesel and Bioheat. In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his Plan NYC, which brought 25 city agencies together to help tackle some of the toughest issues facing New York City in the years to come. As a part of this visionary plan, Mayor Bloomberg called for a 30% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2017.

Steven Levy, Chairman of the National Biodiesel Board, said Bioheat and biodiesel goes a long way in helping New Yorkers. “Bioheat and biodiesel are very important to New York for many different reasons. The people in New York want to be greener, more sustainable, and want to do the right thing for the country relating to energy dependence,” Levy said. “The legislators, both the City Council in New York and both the former and current mayor, have also stated their objective to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. These city leaders have taken steps to reach this goal, including the major, immediate step to start using Bioheat and biodiesel. Our goal is to have using Bioheat and biodiesel become second nature to the people of New York and folks all across the country. We want to send the message that there is a substitute for petroleum products and that we can afford our children, and our children’s children, a cleaner environment.”

The Nebraska Soybean Board has been major funders of biodiesel and Bioheat education and outreach on the East Coast, and the investment seems to be paying off. Victor Bohuslavsky, the executive director of the Nebraska Soybean Board, said “New York City is one of the largest markets for using biodiesel year round. Bioheat also gives us a large market for wintertime use that we don’t see in the Midwest and farming sector. It’s very satisfying to see their enthusiasm for using alternative fuels such as biodiesel and their commitment to improving our environment and air quality in the long term.”