Have you ever heard of bio-diesel fuel? The odds are that you haven't but certainly soy bean farmers know what it is. Bio-diesel fuel is generally a combination of traditional fuel and soy bean oil. It is being touted as burning more cleanly and reducing levels of toxic emissions from the combustion process.

Potentially huge support was expressed by the US Senate on October 11th when the Senate approved the first bio-diesel tax incentive. A part of a bill known as the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 provides tax incentives designed to increase the production of and use of bio-diesel fuel in this country. According to the National Bio-Diesel Board, a watchdog organization that promotes the use and production of this fuel, if this incentive becomes law a billion dollars can be added to US farm income over a five-year period and US gross output could be increased by almost seven billion dollars.

So it is time for you to understand what bio-diesel fuel is. Bio-diesel fuel is produced by soy beans and works in most diesel engines as well as home heating applications. Bio-diesel can be used in its pure form, which is referred to as B100, or what appears to be the more common blend of bio-diesel and traditional fuel, frequently at a 20 percent soy bean level.

Already farmers in this country have invested millions of dollars through a government incentive program to develop the bio-diesel industry in the United States. And the industry seems to be growing.

Thus far, 400 major fleets are using bio-diesel in the United States. A small but very much growing number. Routinely major school bus companies and corporate fleet operators are announcing that they are transitioning into the use of bio-diesel fuel.

While only 300 retail gas stations make this available to the public at this time, one could imagine that this number will grow as consumer acceptance is enhanced. Approximately 1000 petroleum distributors carry this product nationwide.

Bio-diesel is alleged to be non-toxic, biodegradable and free of many of the materials that pollute the air during the combustion process. That means less air pollution, more clean air, and less illness associated with traditional fuel combustion.

Recently, a large Pennsylvania heating oil supplier announced that it will be making a soy bean blend available to its customers this year. According to the company, all of its customers will be receiving a soy bean blend for heating oil purposes.

Several weeks ago, the American Lung Association of the District of Columbia included the use of bio-diesel as part of its solution to the asthma epidemic in America's inner city's. This occurred at a conference held in Washington, D.C., where an estimated 5.6 percent of the city's population suffers from asthma.

If you use heating oil, you should inquire as to the availability of bio-diesel. And we all should also place this issue on our environmental radar screen. Anything that reduces foreign oil dependency and cleans the air is worth keeping.

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