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Since 2000, the College has systematically upgraded and converted all of its heavy trucks, grounds equipment and delivery trucks to fuel-efficient diesel vehicles. In order to further reduce the College’s carbon footprint, all diesel vehicles run on biodiesel fuel, in which a component of the fuel is derived from agricultural products instead of fossil fuels, reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is a clean-burning fuel produced from domestic, renewable resources. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel is biodegradable, non-toxic and essentially free of sulfur and volatile aromatics.
Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil or animal fat, from either waste or virgin sources. Amherst College currently purchases biodiesel derived from virgin soy. A chemical process called transesterification separates the more viscous glycerin from the oil. The two products are methyl esters (fuel) and glycerin (a byproduct used in soaps, cosmetics, and food).
Unlike raw vegetable oil, as used in a Greasecar conversion, biodiesel can be used in diesel (compression-ignition) engines, furnaces and boilers with essentially no modification.
Is Biodiesel Carbon-Neutral?
Feedstocks, such as canola and soybeans, absorb three times the CO2 released when biodiesel is burned during combustion. Because petroleum-based fertilizers and methanol are used in production, the EPA says biodiesel releases 78% less CO2 than petroleum diesel. While not strictly carbon-neutral, that’s pretty darn good and can be improved by using waste oil, organic farming or alternate feedstocks like algae.
Learn more about Bio-Fuels
Our Biodiesel Supplier:
Coop Power and Northeast Biodiesel:
Coop Power, a consumer-owned energy cooperative headquartered in Greenfield, Mass., offers members discounted rates with local distributors for biodiesel used in heating systems (a.k.a. “bioheat”). Coop Power also offers assistance with solar power, geothermal power, waste oil, energy efficiency and other green energy services.
Northeast Biodiesel, majority owned by Coop Power, is raising capital to build a biodiesel refinery in Greenfield. The plant will use waste vegetable oil, collected from local restaurants and schools, as feedstock to produce 5,000,000 gallons a year initially.
Police Scooters and Bicycles
In order to promote community-oriented policing, the Amherst College Police Department uses scooters and bicycles in lieu of police cruisers. This initiative reflects the College's commitment to reducing vehicle emissions.
Fleet Vehicles – Hybrid Cars
The Amherst College vehicle fleet has been designed with fuel-efficiency in mind. While at one time the fleet consisted entirely of 12-passenger vans, the fleet is now composed of 7-passenger mini-vans and hybrid vehicles. The seven-passenger vans were selected because they offer superior fuel economy and are more suited to transporting smaller groups of students. The fleet now includes two hybrid vehicles—a Honda Civic and a Ford Escape. These two hybrid vehicles are the most popular choice among ecologically-minded students.
In 2006 the College introduced a Zipcar program to campus that allows students, faculty and staff to rent cars by the hour. The rental fee of $7/hr includes all fuel and insurances.
The Zipcars are Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles, which are very fuel-efficient.
RideBuzz is a web-based ridesharing community where you can post needed rides or offer rides to other members. Ridebuzz supports the community through offering free services to students, businesses and local residents. It reduces the impacts of global warming, green house gas emissions, oil consumption and it reduces traffic. It’s the basic idea of putting two people in one car instead of two separate vehicles (one car is more efficient than two!) One of Ridebuzz’s main goals is supporting the local community.