Town officials are no longer using regular diesel fuel in all town vehicles. A new kind of fuel, biodiesel, is now going into Carrboro gas tanks.
Biodiesel is made using byproducts from various agricultural endeavors, most of it coming from soybeans. It comes in several forms, but the two Carrboro is interested in are B20 and B100.
B20 is composed of 20 percent biodiesel mixed with conventional diesel fuel. B20 is what Carrboro vehicles are running on right now, but the town is looking to upgrade to B100. B100 is pure biodiesel and reduces the emissions of certain gases by 93 percent, according to a Web site for World Energy Alternatives, Carrboro's biodiesel supplier.
Phil Prete, environmental director for Carrboro's Planning, Zonings and Inspections Department, said he has been pleased with the progress of the new fuel.
"I was talking to public works, and they said some of their drivers have been saying the trucks have more power uphill," he said. "We're very happy."
Prete said the fuel produces extra power for the engines because it has a higher cetane content, which makes the fuel burn hotter, giving vehicles more power. But the advantages of biodiesel fuel do not end there, he said.
"We're getting the fuel on a state contract, which means we're getting a really good deal," Prete said. "It also creates much less pollution."
While Prete said Carrboro's fleet is not big enough for the town to radically alter the quality of air in the area, he said the idea wasn't to directly affect air pollution, but rather set a model for other communities.
"We wanted to set an example as a town," he said. "We want to encourage others to do the same."
The idea of bringing biodiesel fuel to Carrboro was first broached by Alderman Diana McDuffee after she attended a conference in Seattle where she met delegates from other communities using biodiesel.
"It was inspiring, seeing all these community leaders thinking about how they could do their part," she said. "I talked with town staff, who said they had been interested in doing this for some time."
McDuffee said that though small towns cannot impact the global environment, all towns and people must do their bit.
"We tried to think globally and decide how to act locally," she said. "We can no longer say the technology is not feasible, it is here now and we can use it to make a difference now."
McDuffee said the town will be planning new conservation efforts in Carrboro.
"We're doing an energy audit right now," she said. "Once that gets in, we'll be able to see where we can save and where we're doing well. More plans will definitely form up then."
McDuffee stressed the importance of cooperation between local governments to improve the environment.
"Look what we did with the buses, that was the best thing we've ever done environmentally," she said, referring to UNC, Chapel Hill and Carrboro's fare-free busing program. "The key here is that Carrboro, Chapel Hill and UNC work together now and in the future."
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