The STM biodiesel reality


By: Virago


There was a time when reading the words "Ce véhicule roule au biodiésel" on the Nova Bus ahead of me put a smile on my face. The STM's pride rubbed off on me as I considered this biodiesel initiative the first significant step towards the eco-conscious model my city was finally becoming. Although this was definitely a good start, just how significant a step it was is debatable. An entire decade has passed since the original kick-off of the famous Biobus project, and yet they're still only using a measly 5% biodiesel mixed with 95% regular diesel - an important detail strangely omitted from their ever-present and self-congratulatory bumper stickers. There appears to be quite a disconnect between the STM's projected green image and the reality of their efforts that is worthy of examination. Temperature, cost and accessibility, their usual given excuses for not using a higher amount of biodiesel are easily discredited by facts.
In northern climates such as ours, the temperature limitation of biodiesel is often cited as an excuse not to use the fuel. The STM claims that Montreal's weather is too harsh to use anything stronger (or better for the environment) than 5% (known as B-5). Though a definite factor, these extreme conditions are only an issue for roughly three months out of the year. I've successfully driven my veggie-oil car for the past two years, and though I don't have a choice but to switch to pure diesel in the winter months, using 100% biofuel for the balance of the year has proven to be all but problematic. Not only does it smell less toxic, it can smell downright delicious if you like the smell of French fries. This car has never run more smoothly; it actually purrs right into early December. You can mix the percentage up as much as you want; it will not affect the performance of a vehicle. And so, in cases of drastic temperature changes, or the sudden glow of a fuel gauge light in a secluded area without veggie oil, adding diesel to your tank is both practical and forgivable. (per sent) Biofuel will only start to disagree with you once the mercury falls below 0° Celsius. Leading up to much colder weather, it is normal to slowly increase the percentage of regular diesel into the blend. Nevertheless, the STM's yearlong refusal to use a grade higher than B-20 in disregard to the nine months of optimal biodiesel temperature is simply inexcusable.

Modifications to a vehicle's motor are only necessary when using B-20 or higher regularly, in which case the related costs are minor. Biodiesel will dissolve rubber over time, thus rubber components will eventually need to be replaced by those made of synthetic rubber. Contrary to the STM's cost argument, these rubber components are mostly hoses and gaskets - all relatively inexpensive parts to buy. In terms of engine parts and necessary changes, biodiesel will actually save the company money in the long run. According to, "the addition of biodiesel to regular diesel actually increases the lubricity of the fuel, reducing wear and extending the life of engine components"1 ( - something our old city buses could surely benefit from.

Biodiesel pumps.jpg

As it currently stands, biodiesel is available in range of mixtures from as low as B-5 (5% with 95% diesel) to the full 100% (B-100) - all of which are readily available to the STM.(cum sent) Olco, their official provider, was awarded the handsome government contract to supply both diesel and biodiesel fuel for the duration of the project. The STM's argument about availability of the fuel in question really only applies to us little people. While several major cities across Canada and the US each offer multiple biodiesel fuel-up locations to the public, Montreal's sole biodiesel supplier recently closed. This company originally began processing the biofuel for their own fleet and thoughtfully decided to make their small surplus amount available to other environmentally-conscious individuals. After all, pure biodiesel produces 78% less CO2 emissions than diesel, and reduces most forms of air pollutionpollution2 ( But sadly, they could no longer keep up with the demand. Though these shortages are fortunately of no concern to the STM, they still continue to pride themselves on their 95% dirty diesel "biodiesel".

All in all, it is great that the STM is using biodiesel, however little the amount, but they should be more honest and forthcoming with the facts. Though 5% is better than nothing, does slightly better than nothing really earn the right to boast a deceiving phrase on each bio bus, misleading the population to believe they are doing much more for the environment? Cost, temperature and availability - the company's most overused arguments against increasing biodiesel amounts to drastically reduce emissions have been rebutted. They have the option, the image and the government funding, so why exactly are they choosing to pollute far more than they need to?

* "Ce véhicule roule au biodiésel" means "This bus rolls on biodiesel"


Soyatech. "Biodiesel Facts." Biodiesel Facts., 2000. Web. 16 May 2012. .

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Biodiesel--the Clean, Green Fuel for Diesel Engines. Publication no. DOE/GO-102000-1048. Http:// US Department of Energy (DOE), May 2000. Web. 16 May 2012. .

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