Less than a year ago, San Francisco’s diesel buses ran on traditional diesel with some biodiesel dropped in. That wasn’t quite enough for the City’s Department of Environment, which was looking for ways to cut emissions and make its operations more sustainable.
“We started to ask, ‘where are our biggest emissions for carbon dioxide,’” says Deborah Raphael, Director of the Department of Environment. “Where are the pollutants that we’re most worried about? A clear area is diesel emissions.”
Known for its progressive thinking, San Francisco has invested in electrical vehicles, such as buses. However, the city maintains a diesel fleet consisting of buses, fire trucks, and light-duty trucks. Mrs. Raphael says they were using 5–20 % biodiesel, but it “never felt that satisfactory because we were still using 80 % traditional diesel.”
It was a staffer who first introduced Mrs. Raphael to renewable diesel. “The more we learned, the more we realized: this is real, this is value, we’ve got to try it,” she says. End users could not tell a difference since renewable diesel matches and even outperforms traditional diesel.
With the right fuels, going forward is simply a matter of attitude. “Cities have an opportunity to lead by example and cities like San Francisco have an obligation to lead by example,” Mrs. Raphael emphasizes.