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Celebrating Biodiesel on National Biodiesel Day

ISU Student John Cramsey Letter to the Editor

Published in Demoines Register, March 18, 2021

March 17 may belong to St. Patrick, but March 18 is also a day to celebrate, particularly for chemical engineering students like me. That’s National Biodiesel Day, the anniversary of Rudolf Diesel’s birthday. Diesel ran early models of his engine on peanut oil — a visionary for the renewable fuel that would one day become biodiesel.  

As an Iowa State University student working with biodiesel, I support the current legislation that would set a minimum biofuels standard in the state and drive blends up higher over time. The idea of most Iowa diesel containing at least 11% biodiesel during warmer months, and eventually 20%, represents an exciting shift in our energy. Surrounding states either have implemented similar legislation or are considering it, and I believe Iowa should be a leader in this space.  

I serve as a co-chair for the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, and as past president of the BioBus Club at ISU. We collect used fryer oil from campus and convert it into biodiesel for the CyRide buses in Ames. High-quality biodiesel blends perform as well or better than petroleum diesel, with significant economic benefits for Iowa, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.  

I enjoyed working with renewable energy throughout my academic career, but biodiesel stood out. It’s amazing that we can take waste products, or byproduct oils from plants, and convert them into fuel for immediate use in vehicles and other engines. I like how, unlike other technology, we don’t have to change much infrastructure or buy entirely different vehicles to use biodiesel. 

I believe Rudolf Diesel would be proud of the headway Iowa continues to make in bringing his idea of renewable fuels full circle.  

— John Cramsey, Ames 

college student with diesel pickup truck

Cramsey at a biodiesel ride-and-drive in Tampa, FL

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