Editorial Defends Minnesota Biodiesel

John Davis

It’s been nearly a month since some school buses in Minnesota wouldn’t run after temperatures dropped to -20 to -30 degrees F. Commentators such Fox TV’s Glenn Beck derided the state’s 2 percent biodiesel mandate as the cause of the stalled Bloomington school buses… although he offered no explanation why this didn’t happen at EVERY other school district that had the exact same requirement.

Well, apparently, Beck has shot his mouth off again last Friday as he’s continuing his tirade against the green fuel, and according to this opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Beck said, “Lawmakers put children’s safety at stake because they don’t want their buses to run on a politically incorrect kind of fuel.” But the editorial doesn’t want to give Beck the last word:

With Minnesota poised to transition to a higher percentage of biodiesel this spring, it’s important to set the record straight on the Bloomington bus issue. Biodiesel wasn’t the culprit causing the school buses to stall out. Unfortunately, the brouhaha has given the state’s pioneering mandates and the promising biodiesel industry an undeserved black eye.

Minnesota law currently mandates that virtually all diesel in the state contain 2 percent biodiesel. Almost any oil can be used to make biodiesel, according to Ed Hegland, an Appleton, Minn., farmer and chairman of the National Biodiesel Board. In Minnesota, it’s mostly made from soybeans, then blended with regular petroleum diesel. Petroleum diesel is the fuel on which most of the nation’s trucks, tractors and road equipment run. Minnesotans in particular are long acquainted with regular diesel’s drawbacks in cold weather. When the temperature drops below a certain point, wax crystals can form and gum up fuel filters. It’s why truckers idle their trucks overnight in cold weather and why many who rely on diesel during the winter switch to a different blend to minimize the problem.

I’m sure this won’t even be the final word. But the next time biodiesel opponents try to point to the Bloomington bus story as evidence that biodiesel doesn’t work, I’d like them to explain why it worked everywhere else on that cold January day.

Biodiesel, Opinion