Better Breathing with B20

By Tim Alexander

better breathing with b20Mitigating risk is woven into every decision people make. No one wants to choose a path that puts health, safety or finances at risk. One easy choice that can help everyone breathe easier is supporting clean-burning biodiesel as a renewable substitute for petroleum diesel.

Rather than depending heavily on foreign petroleum supplies, domestic energy combats trade deficits, fuel supply disruptions and unexpected price changes. Biodiesel provides energy security and enhanced engine operation and safety factors. And biodiesel mitigates health risks associated with petroleum for machinery operators, families, co-workers and the general public.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pure biodiesel (B100) reduces lifecycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 57-86 percent compared with petroleum diesel. Experts with the American Lung Association (ALA) recognize biodiesel not only reduces carbon emissions but can also provide health benefits.

“The figures we use for biodiesel emission reductions come directly from peer-reviewed studies performed by experts with organizations such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Purdue University and the EPA,” says Bailey Arnold, senior manager of clean air initiatives with the ALA and project lead for the B20 Club, a partnership between ASA and the Illinois Soybean Association that recognizes Illinois Fleets committed to using B20.

“ALA began to support biodiesel use in the early 2000s when it became the first and only alternative fuel to successfully complete the Tier 1 and Tier 2 health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990,” Arnold explains. “Pure biodiesel was found to be non-toxic and biodegradable, posing no threat to human health.”

Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology required in diesel vehicles manufactured after 2010 reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions to near zero levels, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Biodiesel use reduces emissions because CO2 released from biodiesel combustion is offset by the CO2 absorbed from growing soybeans or other fuel feedstocks.

“Another benefit biodiesel can provide is risk mitigation because biodiesel reduces harmful emissions of carbon monoxide and particulate matter as well,” says Arnold.

Success in Carol Stream

pink peteThe Village of Carol Stream, Ill., converted its municipal fleet of 44 vehicles to clean-burning B20 in 2019, partly because of the health and environmental advantages of biodiesel.

Village leaders worked with the B20 Club, ALA and Pete Probst of Indigenous Energy to clean and prepare their fuel tanks, incorporate B20 into new fueling infrastructure and equip village vehicles to run on high blends.

“Through this transition to B20, we will prevent the release of almost 25 tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is the same as planting 374 trees,” says Sam Barghi, public works management analyst for the Village of Carol Stream, a Chicago suburb of 40,000 in DuPage County. “It is important to us to be good stewards of the environment while not be impacting service levels for our residents in a negative way. It’s also important to provide a cleaner and safer work environment for our employees who work in and around these vehicles all day.”

carol stream and american lung associationThe village’s fleet of vehicles includes light- and heavy-duty trucks, backhoes, loaders and utility task vehicles (UTVs); all of which emit less CO2 into the atmosphere with conversion to B20.

“With the reduction in particulate matter, in particular, the village should expect to see a nominal health benefit to its employees,” Arnold agrees. “The reduction in air pollution will also provide an annual health benefit of $5,300 to the village and its residents.”

To learn more about the Illinois soybean checkoff’s work with other members of the B20 club, visit