Opinion: VW Could Repair Image with Biodiesel

John Davis

VWBiodiesel could be the solution to fix Volkswagen’s image left tarnished by revelations the company rigged the emissions testing for its diesel vehicles. This opinion piece in the Denver Post by Bill Germain, described as a sustainable business strategist and environmental advocate, makes it very clear he’s not happy with what VW did, especially since he owns one himself. And he wants the company to make amends, with the best way, in his opinion, by embracing biodiesel to clean up the air and the automaker’s act.

VW should take full responsibility for this fiasco by fixing the software and emissions irregularities, paying all requisite fines, and reimbursing the millions of TDI owners who it intentionally defrauded. But the truth is that such measures would do little to fulfill the original promise of VW’s “clean diesel” engine. Why? Even with effective emissions control technology, petroleum-based diesel fuel cannot offer a clean solution. In contrast, biodiesel can, particularly when produced from feedstocks of waste vegetable oil or sustainably sourced seed oils.

Biodiesel not only dramatically reduces harmful emissions at the tailpipe, it’s a domestically produced, renewable substitute that provides significantly improved environmental performance over petroleum diesel throughout its entire life cycle. Perhaps most importantly, it’s not a future, “what if” technology’ it’s widely available today and compatible, either pure or blended with petroleum diesel, with most diesel car and truck engines on the road, including Volkswagen TDIs.

B20 fuel (20 percent biodiesel) can significantly reduce carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions including particulate matter, carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons.

Emissions scandal aside, it is extremely short-sighted for Volkswagen to not have embraced biodiesel for its capacity to improve the environmental performance of its existing TDI vehicles. I don’t want to do VW any favors, but authorizing the use of B20 could offer VW a mitigation strategy in what will undoubtedly be a long and painful road to recovery for the world’s largest automaker. The aggregate environmental benefit of transitioning even a portion of some of the 500,000 TDIs in the U.S. to B20 would be significant. Factor into this equation that B20 would provide increased fuel lubricity and contribute positively to vehicle longevity, biodiesel can be viewed as a practical, cost-effective strategy to help TDI owners protect their car investments.

He concludes saying biodiesel won’t repair all the damage VW has done to its reputation, but it will make the company come closer to truly fulfilling its clean diesel promise.

Biodiesel, Opinion