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Touting benefits of biodiesel alternative



Published: Fri, September 1, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Biodiesel fuels are friendlier to the environment, says the president of the Ohio Farmers Union.

By JEANNE STARMACK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Soybeans aren't just for eating anymore.

Just ask Joseph Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union and a Trumbull County farmer, whose crops include 100 acres of the versatile little legumes.

He'll tell you. Blending oil made from soybeans with diesel fuel results in a biodiesel alternative that's friendlier to the environment and good for Ohio's businesses and farmers. Ohio produces about 200 million bushels of soybeans a year, he said.

His cause is getting a boost, too, from U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown of Elyria, D-13th, who's running for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. Brown appeared with Logan on Thursday at the Democrats' tent at the Canfield Fair.

Brown says he's against giving the oil companies more money -- money that he said could be put to use giving incentives in Ohio to developers, manufacturers and users of alternative energy sources that include solar and wind power and biodiesel fuels.

He said an energy bill that DeWine voted for in 2005 had tax incentives and subsidies for the oil industry.

"You consider: We send $400 billion out of the country for gas, and it goes to countries that don't like us and we don't like them," he said.

Proposes incentives

He said that if instead, efforts were put into developing alternative energy sources and people had incentives to use them, production costs would go down and the fuels would become more available.

For example, he said, writing incentives into legislation would make alternative fuels more attractive to developers, and tax credits could encourage homeowners to use them.

The farmers union's political action committee has worked with Brown for many years in Washington, Logan said, and it likes his position on environmentally friendly fuels. He said he believes Brown understands the importance of making sure Ohio's farmers and businesses share in profits from alternative energy ventures.

Biodiesels can be 100 percent organic or a blend with petroleum diesel, Logan said. For now, most fuels are a blend. He said a process called transesterification applies chemical compounds to break fat molecules into smaller ones, which stabilizes the fuel so it doesn't jell in cold weather.

"You can absolutely run a diesel engine on straight vegetable oil," he said, but the driver of a tractor trailer wouldn't risk "being in the mountains and having it jell up in cold weather."

Widespread uses

He said that biodiesels would be an alternative not only for truck drivers, but for farmers and their equipment as well. And cars with diesel engines, he said, get about 50 miles to the gallon.

Logan said biodiesels mean 50 percent less sulfur and 50 percent less carbon particulate matter in the air, and they could go on the market for about $2.40 to $2.50 a gallon. Petroleum diesel sells for around $3 a gallon, he said.

Logan said that right now there are some suppliers in the region who are offering biodiesel blends. But, he said, Ohio is lagging behind other states in biodiesel operations.

"We need alternatives," he said.




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