For cleaner air now, Illinois should use more biodiesel

Waiting, while doing nothing, is a lost opportunity in the fight for cleaner air.

SHARE For cleaner air now, Illinois should use more biodiesel
Samples of biodiesel sit on a pump at a California biofuels company in 2013.

Samples of biodiesel sit on a pump at a California biofuels company in 2013.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I am writing in response to the recent article “Docs to Pritzker: Truck diesel pollution is killing Illinoisans” to let readers know of an immediate way to reduce harmful emissions from diesel trucks. The complete electrification of the 4 million heavy-duty Class 8 trucks in the U.S. will take decades. There is no available technology that matches the range, performance, and reliability of a diesel engine. When an electric counterpart does finally exist, it will be very expensive.

Waiting, while doing nothing, is a lost opportunity in the fight for cleaner air.

The solution available today is to use biodiesel, which works in any diesel engine and is produced in Illinois. Biodiesel burns cleaner and reduces harmful particulate matter emissions by 48%. Biodiesel reduces carbon emissions by 74% compared to diesel.

A recent study by Trinity Consultants found that switching to 100% biodiesel in Chicago trucks would decrease diesel particulate matter-related cancer risks by up to 1,600 cases and result in more than 31,000 fewer or lessened asthma attacks per year. It would also save over $677 million per year in avoided health care costs. The American Lung Association labels biodiesel a clean air choice because it burns so much cleaner than diesel. Since biodiesel is made from renewable sources like plant oils and animal fats, it is also a powerful tool in battling climate change.

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Biodiesel is widely available, can be blended with diesel, and does not require changing any pumps or tanks for distributing. A common blend is 20% biodiesel, called B20. Illinois is the fourth-largest producer of biodiesel in the U.S. and it is sold at 85% of the diesel stations across the state.

Biodiesel also saves drivers money. Illinois has had a 6.25% sales tax exemption for biodiesel blends above B10 since 2003. Today that incentive represents a 23 cents-per-gallon savings for consumers.

Pritzker is already leading on this issue and signed legislation that will increase the blend minimum for the tax exemption to B19 by 2026. All Illinoisans should be encouraging the use of more biodiesel in public and private diesel fleets. Using biodiesel will result in cleaner air for all residents, today.

Pete Probst, Pilsen

Americans go to Russia at their own risk

Regarding Gene Lyons column, “Best advice for Americans? Stay out of Russia.”

The release of basketball star Brittney Griner in a prisoner exchange for Viktor Bout has caused a great deal of controversy, and Lyons is correct that Americans should stay out of Russia since even during the height of the Cold War there were at least some standards in place.

When Francis Gary Powers was piloting a U-2 spy plane and was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, he was imprisoned and eventually exchanged for the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in 1962.

In an incident somewhat similar but not equivalent to the hostage-taking of Griner, Yale professor and researcher Frederick Barghoorn was simply conducting interviews in the Soviet Union in 1963 when he was detained and accused of espionage after being handed some papers in an orchestrated setup. Barghoorn was released after about two weeks. A period of détente arose after the Cuban Missile Crisis making such moves between the Soviet Union and the U.S. much more palatable.

Unfortunately, with the war in Ukraine and relations between Russia and the U.S. severely strained, it is quite evident that even minimal standards no longer apply and that Americans who wish to travel or work in Russia do so at increased risk.

Larry Vigon, Jefferson Park

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