How Madison, WI is Using Alternative Fuels to Achieve Lower Carbon Targets
Communities of all sizes are implementing targets to reduce their carbon intensity. The majority of these goals are focused around transportation, as this sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the Unites States. The city of Madison’s mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway introduced the Climate Forward plan for the city, which outlines the actions the city will take to advance its work to combat carbon emissions.
Among a number of strategies to reduce carbon emissions, improve resilience, and support career opportunities, the plan also requires that all municipal vehicles run on 100% renewable resources and be carbon neutral by 2030. Because the technology and infrastructure for heavier duty vehicles isn’t currently available, Madison is utilizing biofuels to help meet this target.
As more companies turn their attention to finding options for lower carbon fuel solutions, we’re positioned to leverage decades of experience and innovation to work toward meeting their individual needs. We tailor solutions and scale the options to work with our customers’ various markets.
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Biofuels are available throughout the United States and can be competitive in price with ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD). Biofuels are renewable fuels primarily made from agricultural products such as soybean oil and other waste products, like distiller’s corn oil, inedible or used cooking oil, and beef tallow. Biodiesel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 86% and hydrocarbon emissions by approximately 67%. Another benefit of biofuels is that they can have a direct correlation to improved health outcomes. This is especially important in congested areas with lower-income populations due to the reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality. A recent study found this correlation in cities around the U.S. such as Chicago, Buffalo, Houston, and Charlotte.
Biofuels can also be used in virtually any existing diesel engine with little to no modifications, like the engines in municipal buses, refuse trucks, snowplows, and other medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. Biofuels can be used alone (B100), or blended with petroleum diesel. A blend that is commonly used is B20, which means 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel.
Madison first started using biodiesel in 2018, using a B5 blend (5% biodiesel, 95% petroleum diesel) in the fall and winter and a B11 blend in the spring and summer. Beginning in the summer of 2019, a B20 blend was used in warmer months. This marked the first time all ten fuel sites for the city dispensed B20.
Madison has since then has moved to higher blends, which mean additional carbon emission reductions. The city is partnering with Optimus Technologies and Chevron Renewable Energy Group to aid in the transition. Optimus Technologies’ patented system enables diesel engines to efficiently operate on 100% biodiesel — even in challenging weather conditions. Chevron Renewable Energy Group, one of the leading biofuels producers in the United States, has a plant located in Madison.
Mahanth Joishy, Superintendent of Fleet Services for Madison, is excited to see the positive impacts of the transition on the city's carbon emissions, saying “What could be better than reducing soot and carbon emissions from our garbage and dump trucks by using Wisconsin-made Chevron Renewable Energy Group biodiesel, made from Wisconsin soybeans, grown by Wisconsin farmers? The goal is a renewable, lower carbon, circular economy that benefits our communities. That’s about as circular as you can get.”
Madison isn’t the only municipality that is making a switch to lower-carbon fuels. Additionally, there are increasing government regulations or incentives for using biodiesel. If making the switch to biofuels is the right step for your community, there are federal resources and financial aid to implement biodiesel in operations, one being the USDA Biofuel Infrastructure Grant. Other resources can be found on the Alternative Fuels Data Center website.
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