ANNAPOLIS – It’s not just for tofu any more.
Soy, combined with alcohol, produces a clean-burning fuel known as soyDiesel that can be used in any diesel engine.
And this week, a consortium of Maryland watermen, environmentalists and agriculture officials gathered at Sandy Point Park to promote the use of soyDiesel. Their backdrop was the Chesapeake Bay — one potential beneficiary of cleaner fuels.
“Using soyDiesel is one more way to reduce toxic emissions, reduce pollutants into the atmosphere and into the waters of the bay,” Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, told those assembled Tuesday.
Engine performance with soyDiesel rivals performance with regular diesel, proponents say.
Iowan Bryan Peterson, 50, was on hand to tell about the voyage of the Sunrider, his 24-foot Zodiac boat. Sunrider circumnavigated the globe from 1992 to ’94 — fueled with soyDiesel.
With 100 percent soyDiesel, Peterson said, “the minute that you pour it in, the next time you start the engine, you will get an 80 percent reduction in smoke…. There’ll be none of that diesel odor whatsoever.”
Peterson said that 80 million gallons of biodiesels – the category to which soyDiesel belongs, as opposed to fossil fuel – are sold in Europe each year.
However, because the alternative fuel is not readily distributed, it costs more. A mixture of diesel and soyDiesel commands slightly more than the going rate of diesel, about $1.20 per gallon. Pure soyDiesel, on the other hand, is priced between $2.50 and $3 per gallon.
The National Biodiesel Board, headquartered in Missouri, says that there currently are only three distributors nationwide, two in Kansas and one in Massachusetts.
Nonetheless, Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, endorsed the use of cleaner fuels.
“It makes sense to me that we use something that is environmentally clean,” Simns said. “Plus, we’re going to be helping the farmers in this country, and we need to help one another.”
SoyDiesel is being promoted by the Maryland Soybean Board, a voluntary organization that administers research and development money contributed by soybean farmers.
Soybeans are one of Maryland’s leading cash crops, driving a $48 million dollar industry. One acre of soy produces 54 gallons of fuel, according to the biodiesel board.
And growing the crop can be less harmful for land. Agriculturalists say much of Maryland’s soybean acreage is cultivated with a no-till process that preserves the previous crop’s roots, holding soil together and lowering the risk of erosion.
Maryland Agriculture Secretary Lewis R. Riley praised the multiple benefits of soy at Tuesday’s demonstration.
“Soil and water protection is the lifeblood of the agricultural industry and, for the farm community, to protect that is protecting their livelihood,” Riley said. Using soyDiesel, he said, “means alot for a safe environment, and, frankly, for a better economy.” -30-