April 21, 2014. Earth Day is here! And with it comes news stories and people coming together to bring renewed attention to our environmental problems. Climate change or global warming, whatever you prefer to call it, is here to stay. Earth Day was the brain child of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. He used the creation of this event to get the nation to understand how polluted the air, water, and land had become in the decades after the industrial revolution and World War II.

At the same time that Senator Nelson brought environmental issues up to the forefront, the younger generations exercised their voices through community activism. Senator Nelson hoped to use the energy he saw in these student activists to create awareness in – and action from – the general public. When Earth Day was first announced it was defined as a nationwide teach-in about the environment. This process worked! Earth Day was one of those rare political events that had backing from representatives of both political parties.

Unfortunately as the political parties have sparred, the environmental movement has lost bipartisan support. Today some politicians are concerned with how closely they align themselves to measures that would increase protections on the environment while others favor decreasing restrictions in order to increase business even if it has a negative effect on the environment. This internal back and forth is seen by most as silly at best, and incredibly damaging at worse. People want action on climate change and if the government is not willing to take action then the average person will be forced to on his or her own.

Blue Ridge Biofuels delivers biodiesel to customers across WNC.

Locally produced biodiesel is one of the many ways that the average person can do something to help mitigate the effects of global climate change. Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine without modifications, including cars, trucks, heavy equipment, and home heating oil furnaces. Many of the biodiesel producers started out as small groups of like-minded people who wanted to put their vision for an environmentally-friendly into play. These groups grew into fully-fledge biodiesel companies, like Blue Ridge Biofuels. These companies see a future that moves away from the petroleum-based fuels that have been the mainstay for over a century and a half. Biodiesel is a key component in moving away from our dependence on fossil fuels.

Recycle your used cooking oil at one of our public bins.

Biodiesel helps complete the environmental production cycle that started in the field. Most biodiesel made in the US is the by-product of the soybean industry, which feeds animals and people across the globe. Biodiesel fuel is grown, harvested, processed, and finally burned in engines – including even in the equipment that was used to plant the crop. Local biodiesel is often made by used cooking oil from area restaurants in the same city where the fuel is produced and consumed. Even if you can’t use biodiesel fuel in your gas car or natural gas furnace, you can still recycle your used cooking oil to help create local fuels – in fact anyone can participate in the local fuel economy! You can find places to recycle your used cooking oil at the Cooking Oil Recycling Program’s website – and more bins are being placed in WNC this summer.

Biodiesel production is a huge step for US energy independence and a drastic reduction in the amount of the petroleum that we currently produce domestically or import from countries. In 2013 Blue Ridge Biofuels produced over 345,000 gallons of B100 – 100% biodiesel. In the entire US in 2013, 1.3 billion gallons of biodiesel were produced. According to the National Biodiesel Board’s emissions calculator based on data from the EPA, that equals 25,194,733,600 pounds of emissions reduced compared to the same amount of petroleum diesel.

Biodiesel is now available at public pumps across the country.

Biodiesel has come a long way in recent years and production is increasing every year. Instead of focusing on what we have already done this Earth Day, let’s use Earth Day 2014 to push biodiesel (the nation’s only advanced biofuel) to the next level. Let’s fuel the future with cleaner burning fuels and a cleaner environment for those that who come after us. That helps our current generation have a cleaner conscience. If we keep being a thorn in the side of the big petroleum and natural gas companies, we can make them realize that their supreme control over the way that we power our way of life is starting to come to an end, and a new era is about it begin. They can either stand in the way of biodiesel or they can acknowledge the fact that they now have to compete for their customers like everyone else. So recycle your used cooking oil and buy locally-produced biodiesel whenever possible and have a wonderful Earth Day!

By Jabob McKee, PR & Pubicity Intern from Warren Wilson College, edited by Melita Kyriakou, Busienss Administrator