Friday, October 10, 2008

MST Buses Running On Mustard Seed Biodiesel

Monterey-Salinas Transit is in the process of converting its fleet of buses to operate on a biodiesel based on locally grown mustard seeds.

Mustard Seed Photo From MST Website

It is the first public transit agency in the country to produce biodiesel for fleet operations, according to Hunter Harvath, assistant general manager.

"Mustard seed has been in California for centuries and so we are just finding a new use for it, a new innovative use for the 21st century," said Harvath.

“The mustard seed will be grown locally,” said MST’s General Manager/CEO Carl Sedoryk. “To our knowledge, MST will be the first public transit agency in the country – and perhaps the world – to sustainably produce biodiesel for fleet operations.” After planting, the crop requires little to no irrigation or tending, in contrast to other higher-maintenance biofuel crops such as corn. And, because mustard seed is planted as a “cover crop” during the off-season, it would not displace other commodity crops (i.e., corn, soybeans, etc.) nor drive up prices for food – recently cited as a potentially adverse impact of the biofuel industry.

Once harvested, the mustard seeds are pressed into raw oil, which is then refined into biofuel. MST has partnered with Energy Alternatives Solutions, Inc., (BioEASI) to convert the crop into biodiesel in an effort to reduce overall energy consumption in the transportation and production of the crop. Remarked Richard Gillis, President/CEO of BioEASI, “It’s an important component to the sustainability of this demonstration project to have the mustard seed oil refined locally at our biodiesel plant here in Gonzales.”

Furthermore, mustard seed is a fully sustainable product in that the “spicy” mustard meal created as a byproduct after the oil is extracted can then be used as a biopesticide and fertilizer for crops, including the many local organic farming operations in Monterey County. Said Farm Fuel, Inc., representative Robert Van Buskirk, who has been leading the technical research and development of the mustard seed biofuel process, “These biopesticide and fertilizer properties, along with the fact that it can be grown in rotation as a cover or fallow crop in the winter, has the potential to make this process economically viable for farmers throughout many parts of the state and the U.S.”

This mustard seed biofuel initiative is a project of Competitive Clusters: C 2 – a public/private partnership for economic development in Monterey County, sponsored by the Monterey County Office of Economic Development and the Monterey County Business Council. Through this project, MST hopes to further reduce vehicle and coach emissions with the goal of operating buses using biodiesel in 2008. Mary Ann Leffel, President of the Monterey County Business Council, remarked, “Here is another ground-breaking public/private partnership of the Agricultural Cluster of the Competitive Clusters program that will showcase breakthroughs in green technology here in Monterey County.” Claude Hoover, President of San Bernabe Vineyards, commented, “We’re proud to be a partner in this innovative project that could result in significant environmental benefits for Monterey County and be a model for sustainability for agricultural areas everywhere.”

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