‘Green’ I-75 Nears Reality With East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition Help

I75-CleanFuelsThe most recognizable number for alternative fuel proponents has long been E-85—which indicates a much higher ethanol content than most fuels—but thanks in part to efforts from a UT group, that could soon give way to a new number: I-75.

The I-75 Green Corridor Project is an effort between groups in six states along Interstate 75 to create a string of E-85 ethanol stations and B-20 biodiesel stations along the entire length of the road, from Michigan’s border with Canada to Miami.

The East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition—or ETCleanFuels—wrote the proposal, which they have since managed along with UT. Additionally, ETCleanFuels, part of the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment at UT, has helped lead Tennessee’s portion of the project, the latest additions being five E-85 stations in the Chattanooga area and one B-20 station in Knoxville that will all be open by the end of July.

“We’ve had a lot of good industry partners in this effort,” said coalition Executive Director Jonathan Overly. “All told, we’ve had forty stations in this project stick with it through a major economic downturn, through a rise in concrete prices, through a lot of difficult things. They’ve all felt it was a project worth doing, and it’s been very rewarding to see the results of all our efforts.”

The project began five years ago this week, when a US Department of Energy grant through the Clean Cities Program led the states to band together with the idea that drivers should be able to make the I-75 trip using only biofuel.

Since that time, a total of thirty-five biofuel stations have been added on the route.

Once the Knoxville station joins in July, the 1,786-mile-long interstate will become the longest biofuel corridor on earth, something that speaks to an economic boon as well as a source of pride.

“When you’re buying biofuel, you’re buying American,” said Overly. “You’re helping fund jobs in the US, you’re helping the environment, and you’re keeping your fuel money here. Locally, the benefits to Tennessee are great as well, as we can utilize Tennessee resources—like used vegetable oil and switchgrass—to further develop the assets and produce the fuels here.”

Since the start of the project, more than 2.6 million gallons of petroleum have been replaced by biofuels used on the route.

To put that in perspective, that is more energy than is used by 2,100 homes in one year, and has the more of an effect than switching 604,000 light bulbs from incandescent to fluorescent.

In 2013 alone, 1.12 million gallons of petroleum were offset, and this year is on pace for 1.44 million gallons, but the hoped for goal is even higher, at 2 million gallons.

“That’s our aim,” said Overly. “With the amount of fuel consumed as biofuel in the corridor last year instead of as petroleum, you’re talking about having the same cleaning effect on the air as planting 20,000 acres of prime forest. With the Great Smoky Mountains right here in our backyard, that’s something that rings true to our hearts, and we want to see that number grow even more.”

C O N T A C T :

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)

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