National experts tout biodiesel at first-of-its-kind air quality, alternative fuel forum

By | October 13, 2006
If it hadn't been for the carpeted floor of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., you could have heard a pin drop. Leaders of health and environmental organizations from throughout the nation listened intently to a recounted tale of an underground mine's use of pure biodiesel. The workers, accustomed to black hankies at the end of the day, found that when biodiesel powered their equipment, the hankies remained white.

It's a shining example of an immediate, visible health benefit to using cleaner burning biodiesel-one of many benefits discussed at the first Air Quality and Alternative Transportation Fuel Forum. Government officials and industry representatives joined health and environmental leaders in learning about the important role biodiesel can play in reducing harmful emissions and improving air quality and human health. The American Lung Association of the District of Columbia, American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest and American Lung Association of the Southwest hosted the Sept. 8 forum.

Among the experts to address the crowd was Jonathan M. Samet, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and chairman of the National Academies of Sciences study on air particles and human health. "There is a clear correlation between proximity to traffic, and negative respiratory and cardiac effects," Samet told the crowd. "Exposure to high carbon and ozone is linked to low lung function. Higher levels of particles lead to negative effects on the cardiovascular system. Particulate matter levels are linked to increased mortality."

Robert McCormick, principal engineer at the U.S. DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, presented the latest biodiesel emissions data. "There are insufficient data to say if B20 blends cause NOx, on average, to go up or down-but no change in NOx seems likely," McCormick said. He also pointed out that B20 can reduce particulate matter emissions by more than 20 percent based on heavy-duty vehicle testing, and can significantly reduce toxic compound emissions.

During the forum, U.S. EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum discussed the newly published proposed regulations implementing the renewable fuels standard (RFS). Passed as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the RFS requires 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel usage in 2006, which will increase to at least 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. That is expected to displace almost 2 billion barrels of crude oil and reduce the outflow of dollars largely to foreign oil producers by $64.1 billion between 2005 and 2012. The proposed regulations would give refiners and other covered entities that blend biodiesel 1.5 times the base RFS credit. The adjusted credit is due to biodiesel's high energy content.

Other forum speakers included: Steve Howell of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB); Edwin Piñero, a U.S. federal environmental executive; Bailus Walker, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at Howard University and vice chairman of environmental programs for the American Lung Association of the District of Columbia; James Duffield of the USDA; Lori Stewart of the EPA; Dennis Smith of the DOE; Joe Biluck, director of operations and technology for the public schools in the Medford, N.J., township; Loren Beard of DaimlerChrysler Corporation; Paul Willits of New Holland; Rolando Andrewn of the American Lung Association of the District of Columbia; and Angela Tin of the American Lung Association of the Midwest.

"The NBB was honored to participate in this first-of-its-kind forum designed specifically to examine the role of alternative transportation fuels in improving air quality," said Joe Jobe, NBB CEO. "The bottom line is that biodiesel is spreading like wildfire as more public and private fleets, government agencies, and individuals realize biodiesel's environmental and health benefits."
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