Renewable Fuel Trends From the 2018 National Biodiesel Conference

Automakers are looking for ways to tap into the sustainability trend.

By Jon Scharingson, Renewable Energy Group Inc.

As vehicle trends go, convenience stores would do well to pay attention to the Ford F-series. It has been the best-selling truck in the U.S. since 1977 and the best-selling vehicle of any kind for 35 years, according to a recent CNN story.

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So there may not be a better sign of growing interest in diesel models of light-duty trucks and passenger vehicles than Ford’s announcement at the recent National Biodiesel Conference & Expo that its extremely popular F-150 truck will include a diesel option for the first time ever.

Ford also said that the F-150 diesel model will support a B20 blend of biodiesel, meaning the fuel is 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel. That’s an indication that automakers are looking for ways to tap into the sustainability trend and drivers’ demands for clean-burning renewable fuel — something fuel retailers should take note of.

“Adding the new F-150 3.0L Power Stroke diesel to our lineup of diesel models supporting the use of clean, renewable, low-carbon B20 biodiesel blends, complements Ford’s sustainability goals, and we are excited to bring this product to market for our customers,” Dominic DiCicco, Ford’s manager of environmental policy and fuel quality, said in a press release.

The drivers of those new F-150s will be looking for places to fill up. Ford’s announcement was just one of the many developments during the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo, held in late January in Fort Worth, Texas, that were relevant to retailers. Here are my top conference takeaways for c-store operators.

More B20 Vehicles
In addition to Ford, several other on- and off-road OEMs were at the conference to express their support for biodiesel, and B20 in particular, including General Motors, Caterpillar and John Deere.

General Motors noted that they offer 20 diesel models. Those include the popular Cruz, Equinox, Colorado and Silverado models.

“When it comes to the biodiesel movement and B20, we like listening to our customers because they’re the ones who put these vehicles to the test. And they give us feedback, and we then share that with General Motors,” Herb Rolph, business manager for Dallas-area dealer The Thompson Group at Classic Chevrolet, said in one of the conference’s sessions.

Another highlight was a semitruck that runs on 100% biodiesel, serving as a backdrop to the main stage.

Sustainability
A major theme from the OEMs and others at the conference was that fleets and drivers continue to like the significant sustainability benefits offered by biodiesel.

That was backed up by a new study done in collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It found that biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 72% and fossil fuel use by 80% compared with petroleum diesel.

Many government fleets are increasing their usage of biodiesel blends to take advantage of the emissions benefits. That’s important for c-stores to know because while it’s common for government fleets to have their own fueling infrastructure, many also have fleet card programs with local retailers.

The city of Seattle received the National Biodiesel Board’s Climate Leader Award for its use of B20 in its municipal fleet.

“I want to thank the National Biodiesel Board and the entire biodiesel industry for working very hard to provide a high-quality, cost-competitive product that reduces our emissions, creates local green jobs, and keeps our city fleet trucks and fire engines running smoothly,” said Andrea Pratt, the city’s Green Fleet Program Manager.

 A Bright Future
The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) celebrated its 25th anniversary at the conference. The biodiesel industry may still be young compared with petroleum, but it has matured quickly. That contributed to a sense of optimism throughout the conference.

“We went from zero gallons to 3 billion gallons in 25 years,” said Kent Engelbrecht, chairman of NBB’s governing board. “There’s no telling what’s next.”

To learn about the benefits of biodiesel and to read case studies about c-stores offering biodiesel blends, visit regi.com/products-services.

Jon Scharingson oversees the sales and marketing efforts for REG, a leading biodiesel producer.