The City of Berkeley has long been associated with innovation and public policy. There are more than many firsts that have come from this proud and progressive community. On June 24, Berkeley announced another major first, the transition to 100 percent biodiesel (B100) in their diesel powered fleet vehicles. Its an excellent example to other cities throughout the country.

Berkeley is the first city of size to make the switch to this renewable fuel. Biodiesel is made from fat or vegetable oil and burns dramatically better than traditional petroleum-based diesel, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is also safer to transport and store due to its non-hazardous classification. Whats more, it reduces dependence on foreign oil in turn, supporting a local economy, such as the soybean growers associations.

Additional good news is how well biodiesel works in any diesel engine, with few or no modifications.

“Largely due to our towering success with B100 in recycling trucks, the Berkeley City Council and six citizen advisory commissions strongly supported the citys switch,” said Dave Williamson, operations manager for the Ecology Center. “With biodiesel Im able to switch to something that is not only an alternative fuel but is completely sustainable. For the first time in my 13 year career in recycling, Ive had people leave their homes to thank me for using biodiesel. It has resonated loudly with the public.”

100% Biodiesel, also called B100, is used by over 180 of Berkeleys diesel vehicles representing 90 percent of its fleet of 200 diesel vehicles. The remaining 10 percent of diesel vehicles belong to the fire department and will be converted to 100% Biodiesel when accommodations are made for delivering the fuel to the more remote fire stations throughout the city.

So what makes biodiesel that much better? Studies completed by the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture show biodiesel reduces lifecycle carbon dioxide by 78 percent. It is free of sulfates and is the only alternative fuel to have completed the rigorous health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. Results showed biodiesel significantly reduces the threat of cancer and other ailments associated with greenhouse gas emissions, compared to petroleum diesel.