NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – Discussion has ramped up recently about the country relying more on renewable sources of energy.
The Arkansas State University campus in Newport is exploring the benefits of biodiesel, and students have started to see an impact both on the economy and the environment.
ASU-Newport has produced biodiesel in smaller amounts through its Renewable Energy Technology program, but the school decided to ramp up production recently to test its effects and bring together students from several departments.
"We started thinking wouldn't it be nice to be able to do it on a little bit larger scale and just bump that process up occasionally so that we can make a little bit bigger impact," said Jack Osier, the renewable energy technology instructor.
Osier normally shows his classes how to convert vegetable oils into biodiesel that he says will help diesel-powered vehicles run more smoothly and reduce harmful emissions.
Two months ago, his students began creating a stockpile of biodiesel. They partnered with the Commercial Driving program to run a biodiesel blend in one of its trucks, and then those studying Diesel Technology compare emission levels between that truck and another that runs solely on petroleum diesel.
"We are starting to see some lower emission rates on all areas, be it carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides," Osier said. "We also are seeing an increase in horse power for the truck as well as a small increase in gas mileage."
"So far the ones that have been driving the truck with me have seen the difference," said Kyle Story, the Commercial Driving License instructor. "They're saying, wow man, we need to start using this when we get out there on the road too. I was like, yes, yes you do."
Story says he is encouraged that his students have noticed a difference using biodiesel, even if it is just 30 percent of the blend. He hopes that this collaborative study allows the program to use biodiesel in all its trucks, which would cut down fuel costs.
"If we just burned I think it was like 80 gallons of (biodiesel) a week, it would bring our costs down $126 just for 80 gallons," Story noted. "If we were running it in every truck, oh my gosh, our overhead for the month should drop down to at least ($4,000) or under."
Financial savings aside, teachers say the project allows students to see the practical use of what they are learning.
"Now they're able to actually put that into place with the biofuels, creating biofuels," said Allen Mooneyhan, the division chair over the renewable energy program. "They're able to actually put what they've learned into practice and use it."
ASU-Newport also hopes this study shows students how to collaborate, as they have watched their instructors in various departments come together and work toward showing the benefits of biofuel.