Mississippi State --
Rising fuel prices have more than doubled the cost of keeping vehicles on the
road in the last few years, and efforts to curb costs have turned many consumers
and fleet operators to an alternative that is also environmentally friendly.
Biodiesel made from soybeans is selling and performing well across the state,
making biodiesel a high-demand fuel for some drivers. While its price at the
pump once surpassed petroleum-based diesel, its use can now save money for
Michael Dees, president and owner of Dees Oil Co. based in Ripley, started selling
biodiesel a year ago. Today, he sells 10,000 gallons of biodiesel a day, or
about 25 percent of his total fuel sales
“We had a limited supply when we started selling it, and the quality levels weren't
that good at the time,” Dees said. “Now we've got four supply points that we
can get it from, and the quality level is much better. It seems like as fast
as we can get new production, we can sell it.”
Biodiesel is sold as a blend of this soybean-based fuel mixed with petroleum-based
fuel. Dees said he sells blends ranging from 5 percent biodiesel to 80 percent
biodiesel to his customers.
“If they just want to test it, they start at 5 percent,” Dees said.
Dees said biodiesel is normally 20 cents a gallon cheaper than ultra-low sulfur
diesel. Federal standards mandate that the predominant diesel fuel available
at retailers for highway use should meet ultra-low sulfur diesel standards
by Oct. 15. Biodiesel has no sulfur and reduced emissions, so it is a good
alternative under the new standards. Dees expects biodiesel's share of the
market to continue to grow.
“Some truck lines and big truck stops are finding out biodiesel is for real,” Dees
Other reasons for its popularity are the fact that it is produced from Mississippi-grown
crops and is environmentally friendly. Mississippi State University, with support
from the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board, is involved in several ongoing
research projects that impact the state's ability to produce good quantities
of high-quality biodiesel.
Larry Oldham, a soil and water quality specialist with the MSU Extension Service,
said vehicles drip fluids onto roads, driveways and parking lots. These petroleum-based
chemicals are washed into surface water supplies when it rains.
“This runoff from impervious pavement is part of the overall non-point surface
pollution equation,” Oldham said. “There are several things that are being done
to address it, ranging from using new fuels that are more environmentally friendly
to developing different surfaces that soak up these materials and designing urban
areas to better protect the waterways.”
Brent Bailey, an environmental programs coordinator with the Mississippi Farm
Bureau Federation, said biodiesel is a renewable energy that can be grown and
used in Mississippi.
“The industry is going through growing pains. Early on, you had a lot of small
producers who were faced with quality challenges in the production of biodiesel,” Bailey
said. “As technology improved and people incorporated it into their production,
instead of just creating
biodiesel, we are moving into biodiesel refining to produce a consistent, high-quality
Bailey said biodiesel is a non-toxic, biodegradable product that has low levels
of carbon monoxide and other harmful emissions. It is free of sulfur and much
of what gives traditional diesel its smell. It acts as a solvent and keeps
engines running clean.
“Biodiesel can reduce virtually all the emission factors that are typically regulated
through tailpipe emission standards,” Bailey said. “Petroleum diesel could gum
up engines over time, but burning biodiesel cleans the fuel systems out.”
He said in the ongoing quest to lower energy costs of all operations, biodiesel
offers some good news through its lower cost, and its efficient, environmentally