School buses to try biodiesel

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Not long after Santa Claus, an alternative diesel fuel will be coming to town.

A report released this week by transportation officials with the Steamboat Springs School District states that some school buses will begin using biodiesel next month.

"Beginning in January 2006, we will be testing a new biodiesel fuel in two of our regular route vehicles," the report reads.

Rick Denney, facilities director for the school district, said though cost is "always an issue," district administrators are ecologically sensitive and may eventually consider using biodiesel fuel in all 14 district buses.

"As long as there are no gelling issues and the buses run fine, we certainly want to look at ways to help the environment," Denney said.

"Gelling" occurs when diesel fuel thickens in low temperatures. Terry Weston, owner of Weston Oil Co. on 13th Street, says the biodiesel he sells the district will handle the cold.

"That won't be a problem," Weston said. "It's mixed with regular diesel fuel."

Fort Collins-based Blue Sun Biodiesel is Weston's supplier. Blue Sun uses oil from canola seeds grown on Colorado's eastern plains and in the San Luis Valley to create the fuel. The product to be used in Steamboat, Blue Sun B20, is 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent regular diesel.

Weston Oil fuels district school buses, which Weston said use 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of diesel a month. Biodiesel, he said, usually costs about 10 cents more per gallon.

The school bus fuel purchases will be the first local sale of biodiesel by Weston Oil. Terry Weston said he has pipelines in place to run biodiesel to a regular fuel pump at his station.

"Within a few weeks, hopefully we can open it to anybody who wants it," Weston said. "If we see a huge surge in demand, we'll put it on a pump."

About 1,000 gallons a day in sales would be needed to justify use of a pump, Weston said.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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