Teaching a Cat-Tran new tricks

You’ve probably seen a Cat-Tran once or twice in your time here at Western: one of the large, purple shuttles that are rumored to carry students from one place to another. They usually travel in packs of two or three and, if you’re lucky enough to catch one (you’re not), you will arrive promptly at your destination thirty minutes later. The bad news is that you’re still as likely to catch one when you need it as you are to win the lottery six consecutive times in a row, but the good news is everyone’s favorite mythical mode of campus transportation is switching to biodiesel – a newly developed, environmentally friendly fuel.Biodiesel, for those of you not in the know, can be used without modification in nearly any diesel engine and is bio-degradable, non-toxic and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by something in the neighborhood of 60%. Simply put, it’s a very scientific alternative to traditional, environmentally un-friendly petroleum-based diesel fuels. Recently Western has taken steps to convert not just Cat-Tran shuttles, but also a handful of other utility trucks on campus to biodiesel and E10, a mixture of unleaded gas and ethanol that works without negative impact on internal combustion engines. The change was made in conjunction with the purchase of a number of electric vehicles this year in order to fulfill a state-required 20% reduction of petroleum usage on campus by the year 2010.The benefits of switching to biodiesel and E10 are numerous, including not only a drastically reduced environmental impact by Western, but also in the support of a local business, Blue Ridge Biofuels, that supplied the recent 1,480 gallon delivery.What does this mean for the students here at Western? Nothing, if you’re not particularly environmentally-minded. Biodiesel is no more or less potent than traditional fuels, which means your chances of careening off the mountain in a fireball of death and destruction aren’t any more (or less) likely than they were before the switch. In fact, recent research seems to indicate that biodiesel may even improve the engine life of a vehicle, so expect to be waiting for and missing the same Cat-Tran for many, many years into the future.It is encouraging to see Western take steps towards being more environmentally friendly than it has in the past. Though slightly slower to adapt than some other universities, it is far better to make changes such as these later, rather than never.