Shuttle service using cleaner fuel to protect environment

Clouds of black smoke and noxious fumes may no longer be escaping from tailpipes of most USF shuttle buses, since they are being powered by biodiesel, an environmentally friendly fuel.

Transportation manager Rick Fallin said the Center for USF’s Urban Transportation Resources motivated USF to use biodiesel, and USF will be providing them with data on biodiesel for long-term analysis.

“The first time we put biodiesel in a bus for the Center for Urban Transportation Resources, as the mixture went through the engine, there was a notable difference in the engine,” Fallin said.

In August, USF began utilizing 100 percent biodiesel fuel in 22 out of 25 shuttles. The three USF shuttles that aren’t powered by biodiesel are fueled by gas and do not have the appropriate system for biodiesel, Fallin said.

USF had the option of pure biodiesel or a blended alternative. Pure biodiesel, Fallin said, was chosen because a blend wouldn’t provide a clear picture of biodiesel’s capabilities.

USF is the only university in the state that fills its shuttles with cleaner-burning diesel replacement fuel. Fallin added that few universities throughout the country use biodiesel.

On Thursday, USF Parking and Transportation Services won a Green Fleet award from Bay Area Commuter Services for using an alternative fuel, Fallin said.

Biodiesel is made through a chemical process in which nontoxic, biodegradable and domestic resources, such as animal fats and vegetable oils, react with methanol to produce fatty acid methylesters.

Fallin said biodiesel costs 20 cents a gallon more than the petroleum diesel USF was using.

“The cost is justifiable to give us an opportunity to see how it works,” Fallin said. “The environmental benefits far outweigh the cost.”

Researchers say using biodiesel reduces greenhouse gases and provides cleaner air since it does not release harmful emissions. In addition, breathing biodiesel is less harmful to the heart and lungs than breathing regular petroleum diesel fuel.

“The smell is a lot more pleasant, and it’s nicer to work around and live,” Fallin said.