(Host) The town of Brattleboro is one of a very few places in the country where consumers can buy one-hundred-percent biodiesel at the gas pump. The product is being sold by a longtime local business, as VPR’s Susan Keese reports.
(Keese) That’s the sound of Barry Aleschnick filling his blue ’89 Volkswagon Jetta with Brattleboro’s hottest new alternative fuel: 100% biodiesel.
(Aleschnick) “Which is 100% vegetable oil – the oil slightly modified so that it flows into any diesel engine.”
(Keese) Like most New England biodiesel users, Aleschnik uses a 20% biodiesel mix called “B-20” all winter. That’s because pure biodiesel tends to thicken in the cold, the same way as conventional diesel does.
From April through November he prefers B-100. Before it was available at this Shell convenience store pump, he and the other diesel diehards around town went to a lot of trouble to get it.
(Alescnick) “For the last two or three years we were contracting out people to bring it by the drum full from the distributors. And we would buy it that way and fill up our tanks at our home basically. And when the person told us he could deliver, we would call each other up and say: ‘Next week we can get a delivery, you want in?’ But now we don’t have to do that.”
(Keese) The twenty percent mix has been available here for a while. Station owner Rick Fleming, the president of Fleming Oil, opened the region’s first B-20 pump a couple of years ago in New Hampshire.
(Fleming) “That went really well. And we were very excited about it. And then we opened up the pump on Canal Street. And that went very well for the winter. We were running B-20 out of there. And then this past spring, a group of folks said: ‘Boy, it would be really nice if you could put B-100 in.’ So, we made the decision. And it’s just taken off like a house afire.”
(Keese) Fleming says people have been coming from neighboring states to fill their diesel vehicles with a fuel that’s better for the environment.
(Fleming ) “There’s farmers that are coming in buying the B-100, because they’re organic farmers and they want to run biodeisel in the production process at their farms.”
(Keese) His own company, runs its fleet of fuel trucks on B-20 with no modifications at all. He recommends that car owners check with manufacturers before using B-100.
Tad Montgomery, an ecological engineer who uses B-100 in his car, says the pure stuff can degrade the rubber on some older models. It’s a problem he solved by changing the hoses.
B-100 costs about seventy cents more than conventional diesel. But Montgomery says it’s worth it to help reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
(Montgomery) “It also makes a lot of sense from an environmental standpoint. And it’s just one part I can play to help develop alternatives.”
(Keese) Montgomery says he’s working on ways to develop locally-based biodeisel sources. The product used now is made from genetically-modified Midwestern soybeans. But for now, he’s happy with what’s available from Rick Fleming’s stations.
Fleming says his family business has survived more than seventy years in the Brattleboro area by doing exactly what it’s doing now; giving the customers what they want.
For Vermont public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.