At the same time, engineers are exploring more efficient and effective biofuel production systems. There currently is no national standardized specification for what constitutes B20, a blend of 20 percent biofuel and 80 percent petroleum diesel that is commonly used in diesel engines. Engineers and the government are working to set a standard. When it's established, Thelen hopes to have recommendations ready on the best crop varieties that meet the standards.
"As the chemical engineers work on developing a national spec for B20, we'll grow the crops in the marginal areas and see if they can meet it," Thelen said. "We're replicating our study on campus on good agricultural land to compare yields and the quality of biofuel produced from an agricultural land base versus a marginal brownfield land base and see if there's a difference in yield and quality of biofuel."
DaimlerChrysler has been selling the Jeep Liberty SUV with a diesel engine, and beginning in early 2007 it will offer a diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV. In both cases, the vehicles are fueled with B5 (5 percent biodiesel fuel) at the factory. This fall, the company will approve use of B20 in the Dodge Ram diesel pickup for fleet customers who use fuel that meets the current military fuel quality specification.
"Renewable fuels such as biodiesel can be a home-grown solution to our nation's environmental, energy and economic challenges," said Deborah Morrissett, vice president of regulatory affairs for DaimlerChrysler. "This research project with Michigan State can make an important contribution toward reducing our nation's reliance on oil."
The three-year study is supported by DaimlerChrysler, NextEnergy and Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs), the state's plant industry initiative at MSU. The study also is supp
Contact: Kurt Thelen
Michigan State University