The following is a guest blog by Kristy Keel-Blackmon, project facilitator with the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition, a nonprofit group that works with regional fleets and citizens to reduce dependence on foreign oil and improve regional air quality and sustainability.
In 2009, an ambitious, multi-state project started in the city center of Knoxville, Tennessee. Through a grant funded by the Department of Energy, the I-75 Green Corridor Project began with the hopes of increasing the availability of the biofuels E85 and B20 along the entire length of Interstate 75, which runs from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan at the Canadian border to Miami, Florida. The intent was to install biofuels at least every 200 miles or to fill in gaps between existing biofuel stations along the entire length of the interstate.
A venture with hopes that high could not be possible without the help of some solid and committed partnerships. Thankfully, 21 different organizations stepped up to be a part of this important task, from state energy offices to fuel marketers and beyond. Through the work of these dedicated partners, nearly $1.4 million has been provided in cost share to the project budget of just more than $800,000.
Since the project’s inception, more than 2.8 million gallons of biofuels have been sold from stations associated with the project, and 2.2 million gallons of petroleum have been displaced; the equivalent of displacing more than 52,000 barrels of oil. The biofuels sales total also is the equivalent of 6,735 tons of CO2 emissions avoided, compared to conventional petroleum-based fuels. To date, E85 has been installed at 20 fuel stations, and B20 has been installed at nine. These numbers are expected to increase in the coming months. The project is now in its final year and has resulted in the 1,786-mile interstate becoming what is believed to be the planet’s longest biofuels corridor.
The significance of the project lies not only in the extensive length of I-75 or the six-state, multi-partner coordination that has taken place. It is also important that drivers now have a greater number of fuel options. There are nearly 100 flex fuel vehicle models on the market today. Couple that with the fact that, by conservative estimates, there are more than 10 million flex fuel vehicles already on the road, and there is strong evidence for the need for this fuel.
Conveniently, most diesel vehicles can run on biodiesel with few if any modifications to the vehicle. Even in the B20 marketplace, there are a growing number of B20-capable vehicles, from passenger to larger utility vehicles. With exciting developments like the B20 approved Chevrolet Cruze, more consumer-oriented, biodiesel-capable vehicles will surely come onto market. More and more OEMs are responding to consumer demand for diesel vehicles, and some of those vehicles are approved for B20 use, such as the diesel 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. Clearly, now is the time to put these fuels into action, and this endeavor is helping to diversify America’s fuel portfolio one gallon at a time.
In the coming months, more data will roll in to show the great impact of this project. We invite you to get more information and updates about the I-75 Green Corridor Project by visiting www.CleanFuelsCorridor.com.