In an effort to expand its alternative fuel program and bring cleaner air to Western Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass) has switched from standard diesel fuel to biodiesel derived from vegetable oil.Amherst, Massachusetts 2002-03-05 [SolarAccess.com] More than 300 vehicles, including pickup trucks, dump trucks, minivans and construction trucks, are now running on the fuel, which offers significant cuts in unburned hydrocarbons, greenhouse gasses, and particulate matter. The university chose a biodiesel product made by World Energy Alternatives , of Chelsea, Massachusetts, America’s fastest-growing alternative fuel provider, which delivers millions of gallons of biodiesel per year to customers including the US military, the Manhattan Post Office and municipalities in 17 states. “We’re trying to reduce our environmental footprint in an economically feasible way,” said Marc Fournier, assistant director for grounds at UMass. “We have 30 electric vehicles which achieve maximum speeds of about 25 miles an hour. The major advantage of biodiesel is that you mix it right in with your existing machinery. Because we get to keep our current vehicles and maintain the level of performance we’re used to, our return on investment is better with biodiesel than it is with other alternative fuels.” UMass introduced the fuel in September, increasing the number of alternative-fuel vehicles in its fleet tenfold virtually overnight. So far, the vehicles have been running as well or better than they did on petroleum diesel. “There are two major differences that I noticed,” said Larry Snyder, General Manager Fleet Services, Physical Plant. “One, we had to change the oil filters because biodiesel actually cleaned sludge out of the lines. Two, when you run the engines, the fuel smells like french fries cooking.” “Our customers already include some of America’s biggest fleets, but now UMass is bringing renewable, American-made fuel home to New England,” said Gene Gebolys, president of World Energy. “Biodiesel is perfect for applications where a large number of people are coming in contact with diesel emissions. A Yale study released this month found that exposure to particulates on buses can be five to 10 times average levels. School buses, universities and transit vehicles are all good examples of places where biodiesel has a direct impact on people’s health.” Biodiesel has passed Tier I and Tier II Health Effects testing required by the Clean Air Act, and is a registered alternative fuel with the Environmental Protection Agency. Pure biodiesel is completely biodegradable, non-toxic to plants, animals and humans, and is the most effective greenhouse gas reduction technology for existing engines.