On Record: A more modest proposal

“Biofuels, especially biodiesel, simply make sense. I firmly believe they are the key to Oregon’s long-term energy security.” – Randy Leonard, Portland, Oregon, city commissioner, as quoted in US States News.

“The use of biodiesel is good for agriculture, good for economic development and good for taxpayers,” – South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds in a 2006 press release.

“This project could fulfill the dreams of generations of Iowa farmers.”- Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) on the Two Million Mile Haul field test of B20 biodiesel.

“I’m extremely bullish on biodiesel,” – Nile Ramsbottom, president of biodiesel producer Renewable Energy Group, Ralston, Iowa, as quoted in New Orleans City Business.

When the word “biodiesel” appears in the press you can almost hear the American flag flapping majestically in the background. Newspaper writers get giddy when they talk about biodiesel’s prospects. And ohmygod, Willie Nelson loves it …Willie.

So it was with a great deal of skepticism that we approached this month’s cover story. What we found, however, is that despite all of biodiesel’s reported cautions (and we go into detail about each one), there are some enthusiastic construction users out there. Most are using B20, which a number of engine manufacturers seem to be comfortable with. Others, however, are choosing their biodiesel cocktail straight up, testing B100.

The B100 users are taking a big gulp of uncertainty, offering themselves as true guinea pigs. They’re doing it without any assurances from engine or equipment manufacturers. Are they being foolhardy? Time, testing and a thorough examination of engine diagnostics at the three- and five-year-points will tell what can only be a fascinating story.

But for those of you with less of the pioneer spirit, I offer a more modest proposal. Look at your competitive situation. Find out if your clients feel strongly about environmental issues. And – perhaps most important – compare the cost of regular diesel with biodiesel in your area, and whether or not you can get a quality product.

In other words, at the risk of sounding jaded, examine B20 as a marketing strategy. Will it give you a competitive leg up? Will your clients favor you because you use it? Can you take the hit on price (indeed, if there is one)?

While biodiesel is not the environmental bromide some would have us believe, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used to your advantage in your next bid proposal.

What’s your biodiesel story?
While we talked to a number of biodiesel users as we prepared this issue, we’re interested in hearing more. If you have something to share, please contact me at [email protected] or 800-633-5953.