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Machines Look to Vegetables for Power - KSC Adopts Bio-Diesel

KEENE, N.H. 7/3/02 Its clean, it works, and its emissions smell a bit like grilled chicken. The 500-gallon tank that used to supply Keene State Colleges fleet of maintenance vehicles with diesel now contains bio-diesel, an alternative fuel derived from vegetable oils.

For the past month, says Winsor, assistant director of physical plant/grounds, the KSC grounds staff has been filling the tanks of their mowers and trucks with bio-diesel, with no loss in performance and no pollution. So far, Winsor says, he cant see any reason for Keene State to be totally dependent on diesel in the future.

The environmental and health benefits of using bio-diesel are enormous for Keene State, Winsor says. According to EPA research findings, bio-diesel emissions show no increased risk to human health at any exposure level. Bio- diesel is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades faster than sugar, meaning that exhaust emissions or a spill of the substance pose no risks to the surrounding environment, says Winsor. According to the Granite State Clean Cities Coalition (GSCCC), using bio-diesel will also help reduce the United States dependence on foreign oil and will support the farmers who produce the crops used in the manufacture of the vegetable oils.

Medical studies have shown that college students are susceptible to respiratory problems caused by emissions from campus equipment, explains Winsor. We believe that using bio-diesel will help improve the health of the students at Keene State.

Four mower/snowplows, a loader, and the trash truck are now running on bio- diesel, says Winsor.

College staff found out about bio-diesel while researching electric vehicles through the GSCCC, says Mary Jensen, KSCs recycling coordinator. The GSCCC, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy, promotes bio-diesel as one alternative to fossil fuels and quickly informed KSC of the option, says Jensen.

Cost-wise, bio-diesel is a desirable option, explains Winsor, because of the negligible startup expenses of using the fuel and the funding advantages the GSCCC offers participants in the program.

Diesel engines can run on bio-diesel without any conversions, says Winsor, so we didnt incur any costs making the switch, from a mechanical point of view. Although bio-diesel does cost more per gallon than diesel, he says, the GSCCC pays the difference.

According to Mike Fuller, mechanic with the grounds department, bio-diesel has no adverse effect on engines. In fact, explains Fuller, it helps clean the fuel system of dirt and other particles.

The only problem Mike foresees is its use during winter. Bio-diesel freezes at a higher temperature than diesel, says Fuller, so we will need to mix it with diesel when we convert the mowers into snowplows.

The switch to using bio-diesel is the latest in a series of environmentally sustainable decisions that Keene State has made in recent years. Grounds staff use organic compost to fertilize campus gardens and sports fields and, with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have restored a wetland and meadow area beside the Colleges sports complex on Krif Road. The College has an extensive recycling program and an active Presidents Council for a Sustainable Future.

For more information, contact:

Bud Winsor, assistant director of Physical Plant/Grounds, at 603-358-2702

Mary Jensen, recycling coordinator, at 603-358-2567

Mike Fuller, mechanic, at 603-358-2701

For facts about bio-diesel, visit; biodiesel.htm; and

The City of Keene recently began using bio-diesel. The project manager is Steve Russell.

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229 Main Street
Keene, New Hampshire 03435