Trucks at Work

Big Brown getting greener

Some politicians talk a good game about “greening” the U.S. economy in part through the wider use of alternative and renewable energy sources, before setting off on fuel-guzzling private jets – pretty much utterly failing to walk the ambitious green talk.

Then there are transportation companies that actually put their money where their mouth is on the subject.

For example, United Parcel Service this week finalized three separate contracts for using up to 46 million gallons of renewable fuels over the next three years, constituting what the carrier described as a “15-fold increase” over its prior contracts.

The deals made with Finnish firm Neste, Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group (REG) and San Francisco-based Solazyme provide what’s called “renewable diesel” to UPS to shift about 12% of its conventional diesel and gasoline fuel purchases to alternative fuels by the end of 2017.

“Advanced alternative fuels like renewable diesel are an important part of our strategy to reduce the carbon emissions impact of our fleet,” noted Mark Wallace, senior vice president for global engineering and sustainability at UPS, in a statement.

“We have used more than three million gallons of renewable diesel to date with positive results,” he added. “Renewable diesel has a huge impact significantly reducing lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% less versus conventional petroleum diesel. Renewable diesel also performs well in cold weather, does not have any blending limitations and can be easily ‘dropped in’ to our fuel supply chain without modifications to our existing diesel trucks and equipment.”

So renewable diesel; what is it? According to UPS:

  • It’s an “advanced hydrocarbon-based fuel” that is fully interchangeable with petroleum diesel;
  • It offers performance and benefits, much like how synthetic lubricants are used in cars instead of petroleum-based lubricants.
  • It’s made from “bio-based feedstocks” such as animal fats, plant oils and waste residues converted to a diesel-like fuel via new refining technologies. 
  • These new “bio-refineries” also have the capability to produce other renewable fuels such as renewable jet fuel, renewable gasoline and renewable propane – thus opening the door to wider use of such renewable fuels in Big Brown’s aircraft.

“UPS believes these agreements are especially important because they will help stimulate demand for investment in refinery technologies and sustainable feedstocks needed to produce renewable fuels at a total cost that is comparable to more carbon-intensive petroleum fuels,” Wallace said.

Wallace (at right) pointed out that UPS has been using renewable fuels for more than a year in trucks operating in Texas and Louisiana. The new agreements pave the way for expanded use across the U.S. and potentially in parts of Europe.

This renewable fuel effort is but the latest step in Big Brown’s company-wide sustainability strategy, chronicled in part within the company’s 2014 Corporate Sustainability Report – it’s 13th such missive to date.

“Developing alternative, economically viable energy sources is critical to UPS’s commitment to reduce our environmental impact, improve communities and foster economic development opportunities around the world,” Wallace emphasized.

One thing is for certain; Big Brown – like many other transportation providers – is actually pursuing an alternative energy strategy on its own dime; not something many politicians all fired up about “climate change” can say.

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