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Breck buses go alternative

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE<Jim Lamb thinks it might be a good time to get into soybean futures.The Breckenridge Town Council member, who has been touting the benefits of alternative fuels, soon will see his efforts come to fruition. The town council Tuesday afternoon agreed to let Public Works Assistant Director Dan Bell use B20<a 20 percent mix of diesel fuel and a soybean product, called biodiesel<in a town bus or trolley this summer.After researching the subject, Bell determined biodiesel is probably the best route for Breckenridge to pursue.Lamb was touting the benefits of alternative fuels at the same time Bell was meeting in Denver with the Air Force, which has completely converted its fleet of Colorado Springs vehicles to biodiesel. And then, soybean farmer Gary Parker of Kansas saw an article about alternative fuels in Breckenridge and called Lamb.The three met and agreed it would be possible to test biodiesel fuels in Breckenridge town buses.It1s not a new idea. The Summit Stage tried using compressed natural gas in its fleet years ago, but fuel lines froze, the vehicles lost power and took hours, rather than minutes to refill a tank. The new mixture already is in use in diesel vehicles throughout the United States.3It1s a fantastic development, Lamb said. 3I see this as something really big.It will cost very little to conduct the experiment, Bell said. The town merely needs to obtain the fuel and get a bus on the road. If it doesn1t work, the town will fills its fuel tanks back up with diesel fuel.3I went in a little skeptical, but I1m going to keep going on it until I see a red flag, Bell said. 3I haven1t seen any yet. In the areas it1s being used, it1s being used successfully.3What1s great about biodiesel is that your rolling stock is there, Lamb said. 3All that1s changed is the fuel. I expect it to really take off in this country.The benefits of B20 to the town of Breckenridge Bell said, are that it doesn1t pollute<the soybean farmer said it smells like french fries<and helps reduce dependence on foreign oil and helps farmers.Additionally, the federal government has mandated that sulphur in diesel must be reduced or removed by 2006. Sulphur, a major pollutant, lubricates the engine.3The beauty of biodiesel is that it acts as a lubricant, Lamb said. 3We1re taking out something that was quite a pollutant and replacing it with something that1s not a pollutant. Rarely do you see a win-win quite like this.Possible drawbacks include that, while B20 can be used in most diesel engines, it isn1t recommended for use in all. Bell doesn1t know how freezing temperatures in the High Country will affect the fuel, as it<and diesel<are susceptible to gelling.This winter, the cost of diesel fuel averaged 82 cents a gallon; biodiesel costs about 10 percent more. Town vehicles use 8,000 to 10,000 gallons each month in the winter.3If we convert over to biodiesel, that1s a significant amount of soybeans, Bell said.Bell still must check with the vehicle manufacturers to ensure that using biodiesel won1t nullify warranties.


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