Environment

Safeway converts NorCal fleet to biodiesel

Monday, December 22, 2008

Safeway is vying to be the new green grocer. The company has converted its fleet of big-rigs to biodiesel and says the move will not hurt their bottom line. Bay Area smog officials are applauding the move while hoping that other corporations wanting to be good citizens will take note.

In Dublin on Friday afternoon there was much ado about a diesel-powered Safeway delivery truck. It's the one Rick Brown drives -- number 596B.

Wayne Freedman: "Why your truck?"

Rick Brown: "Because it's pretty."

And because Safeway used it for a PR coup today. The company used the setting in front of a store powered by solar panels, to announce that it has converted all 250 trucks in its Northern California fleet to biodiesel fuel.

By doing the same with every truck, nationally, the company expects to reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions by 75 million pounds a year. Policy makers approve the move.

"Well, they're already under pressure to do this, eventually. That Safeway is doing it now, I think, is a good corporate citizen move, and I think that it's a lead that should be followed by other companies, especially here in the Bay Area," says Mark Ross with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

In addition to showing the truck, Safeway produced its CEO, Steve Burd. We asked him if the extra cost of biodiesel will hurt the stock or raise food prices.

"You pay a little more in terms of fuel, but this is cleaner burning fuel so it's better on the engine, and we actually believe that it's a push in terms of overall economics," says Burd.

Safeway says the biggest hurdle in this was finding a reliable source for 1.8 million gallons of soy additive every year. Ultimately, they found, but it's not refined in California. It comes from the midwest -- imported.

Wayne Freedman: "Is there enough biodiesel on line right now?"

John Garamendi, (D) Lt. Governor: "Probably not, but you're creating a market for it."

They chose the soy blend because other diesels fuels tend to gel in cold weather, while soy reduces the problem.

As to how it feels behind the wheel...

"It pulls just as good. Power of the motor is as good as it was," says Brown.

Spoken like a man who has driven these rigs for 44 years.

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