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Biodiesel—It’s Not Just for Cars

Announcer: We secretly switched the heating oil they usually use with renewable bio-heating oil that contains between 20% and 50% biodiesel. Let’s see if they notice...


Me: Anne, do you think the house smells like French fries?
Anne: No, why?
Me: Oh, no reason. I just had a funny feeling it should.


Wind turbine in Somerset, PA

I took this picture about 4 years ago of one of the six 1.5-megawatt wind turbines located in Somerset, Pennsylvania. The wind farm is operated by Exelon. That little hatch at the bottom is actually a full-size door--the tower is about 200 feet tall and each blade is almost 100 feet long.

Yep, count us among the households who didn’t notice. This winter Anne switched our heating-oil supplier to The Good Fuels Company, and last week we got our first tankful of blended heating oil that includes at least 20% renewable biodiesel made from vegetable oils. So far, so good. I didn’t expect our home to smell like French fries. In fact I was a little disappointed when it didn’t.

The biggest surprise was that the blended oil is about 20 cents cheaper than the price we were quoted by our regular heating-oil dealer. Can’t complain about that. Our switch wasn’t based on economic reasons. We both wanted to support alternative fuels, and this was an easy way to do it. Who knew it would be cheaper, too?

This wasn’t our first foray into renewable energy. We had been buying electricity from The Energy Coop (instead of PECO/Exelon), who were licensed to sell electricity from renewable resources as a result of deregulation. We paid a premium for several year for renewable electricity until we learned about a new program called PECO Wind, which provides electricity generated by wind. Since I am psyched about wind turbines (see photo), we switched to PECO Wind for our electricity. Again, we are paying a premium for 100% wind power, but it is cheaper than buying electricity from The Energy Coop. Of course, we’re indebted to the Coop for starting the bio-heating oil program in the first place.

(For more biodiesel news in Pennsylvania, see the America’s Hometown piece, “Homegrown Energy Solutions from the Rendell Administration.”)

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