I know how much time I spend around diesel-powered vehicles, equipment and machinery, and I'd bet that most farmers around the United States spend similar amounts. That's why I'm so alarmed at the recent news from the World Health Organization and its International Agency for Research on Cancer, which now considers diesel fuel exhaust to be a carcinogen as dangerous as secondhand smoke.
Farmers and ranchers make up the third-largest category of diesel fuel users behind truck drivers and heating oil users.
Thankfully, recent clean-diesel technology has cleaned up our emissions immensely, including significantly reducing some of the elements of diesel exhaust that prove to be so damaging to our health.
For example, in 2007, engine manufacturers began adding filters to trap soot. They added technology to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions starting in 2010.
You can reduce these harmful emissions even more by using biodiesel.
Petroleum diesel exhaust contains toxic fumes that you don't get from biodiesel. Biodiesel is a cleaner-burning fuel that's made from U.S.-grown, renewable and biodegradable sources, and doesn't have those toxins.
Soybean oil remains the primary feedstock for U.S. biodiesel production and our soy checkoff continues to support the U.S. biodiesel industry. For example, the checkoff funds research into biodiesel's performance, environmental and health benefits.
According to the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, using 100 percent biodiesel significantly reduces some of the emissions that prove harmful to our health, including:
A 67 percent drop in hydrocarbon emissions.
A 48 percent decrease in poisonous carbon monoxide.
A 47 percent reduction in particulate matter.
Additionally, the National Renewable Energy Lab says a B20 blend of biodiesel (20 percent biodiesel mixed with 80 percent petroleum diesel) drops particulate matter emissions by 25 percent in engines without clean-diesel technology and by 67 percent in engines with the new cleaner-burning attributes.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes biodiesel's clean-air qualities in its regulation that requires the use of at least 1 billion gallons of biodiesel this year. Under this regulation, biodiesel remains the only commercially available fuel that qualifies as an Advanced Biofuel. It earned that distinction from the EPA because it reduces greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 50 percent compared with petroleum diesel.
That regulation continues to improve biodiesel availability, which could make it easier for U.S. farmers to find and use the fuel.
To find biodiesel distributors or retailers in your area, visit www.biodiesel.org. To learn more about the soy checkoff's efforts to promote biodiesel as a way of increasing demand for U.S. soybean oil, click here.