We've all heard of the french-fry automobiles that drive across the country, powered only by grease and oil from fast-food restaurants.
Well, Gainesville's Regional Transit System buses will soon do essentially the same thing, but on a much bigger scale.
RTS is converting its fleet to run on biodiesel fuels by next fall.
Biodiesel fuel can be produced domestically. With wars in the Middle East showing no signs of flagging and the price of a barrel of crude oil rapidly approaching ,100, biodiesel provides a very real solution to some of our energy problems.
Since biodiesel is vegetable oil-based, it is biodegradable and nontoxic - it is 10 times less toxic than, surprisingly, ordinary table salt. Biodiesel fuel emits almost no sulfur and emits about half the amount of carbon monoxide, according to www.biodiesel.org.
A study by the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture in 1998 found that biodiesel emitted 78 percent less net carbon dioxide than traditional petroleum diesel.
And then there's the fact that we'll inhale less cancer-causing exhaust and stinky fumes.
With less pollution, what's not to love?
The only drawback is that it could be more expensive. UF students are facing a 10-cents-per-credit-hour Transportation Access Fee increase to help pay for the new fuel. RTS is paying to convert the buses, but UF will provide ,150,000 to help make the switch. And then there's the fact that biodiesel usually costs a few cents more per gallon than petroleum diesel.
But it's well worth it.
It's worth it to help make our city greener. UF can inspire more cities, especially college towns, to transition to biofuels. Hopefully one day very soon, all the buses and trucks on the roads will be fueled with biodiesel.