Buses in the Monterey-Salinas, California area could soon be running on biodiesel made from mustard seeds. And what makes this idea even more intriguing is that the transit authority itself will be growing the alternative to the more conventional feedstocks, such as soybeans.
This story in the Salinas (CA) Californian says Monterey-Salinas Transit could be helping quell some of the “food vs. fuel” debate:
After planting, the crop requires little to no irrigation or tending, a major contrast with other higher-maintenance biofuel crops, such as corn, MST leaders said. Because mustard seed is planted as a cover crop during the Salinas Valley agriculture industry’s off-season, it would not displace other crops nor would it drive up prices for food, a concern recently cited as a potentially adverse impact of the biofuel industry.
Once harvested, mustard seeds are pressed into raw oil, which is then refined into biofuel.
“MST is very happy to be on the cutting edge of this technology,” said Zoe Smallwood, the agency’s marketing analyst. “We’re happy to be part of a sustainable fuel source.”
The transit authority will be growing a variety of mustard seeds to see which ones are best for biodiesel. Once the seeds are harvested and the oil is collected, MST will also use a local company, Energy Alternative Solutions Inc., to actually make the biodiesel.