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Sioux Falls city fleet powered with soybean biodiesel this summer

Local government trucks and machinery are using B-20 through a partnership with South Dakota Soybean Checkoff. Fuel blended with 20 percent soy diesel is less toxic and reduces carbon emissions. Transportation is a key topic in city's sustainability efforts.

Soybeans are loaded into a grain cart during harvest in Wyanet, Illinois, on Sept. 18, 2018.
Daniel Acker / Bloomberg
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota’s soybean farmers have been covering part of the gas bill for the city of Sioux Falls' fleet of diesel trucks and machinery this summer.

They are happy to help.

Through a partnership with the city, the South Dakota Soybean Checkoff is funding a 25-cent per gallon discount on B-20 diesel fuel up to 125,000 gallons.

The project began in April and will continue until temperatures drop low enough to require switching to the winter blend of diesel, which is usually after Labor Day. The fuel is 20% soybean-based diesel blended with petroleum.

It’s the latest pairing between local government and the soybean growers to promote the many uses of soy byproducts, which has included sealants for asphalt and concrete. Alternative fuels also advance the city’s sustainability goals.


Holly Meier.jpg
Holly Meier, sustainability coordinator for the City of Sioux Falls

The idea to use B-20 came from MEG Corp., the city’s fuel consultant, said Holly Meier, sustainability coordinator for the city of Sioux Falls.

Transportation is just one element of the Sioux Falls Sustainability Plan that was approved in 2012. Using B-20 this summer was a small step as officials prepare an update to the plan, Meier said.

“It’s a good opportunity to form that foundation and move forward,” she said. “How can we continue to think about clean transportation options?”

That may mean more use of electric vehicles and encouraging the infrastructure that is needed to make it happen, as well as more use of biofuels, she said. Beyond transportation, the sustainability plan also looks at natural systems, land use, energy and buildings, how people live day-to-day, the local economy and waste.

Priorities include social equity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with an overarching goal of reducing emissions 45% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. City officials recently delayed the process of developing the new plan to gather additional input from citizens and stakeholders with the goal of implementing it in 2023.

Tim Ostrem, member of the S.D. Soybean Checkoff board of directors

Picking up the 25-cent per gallon was a good way to showcase the benefits of biodiesel, said Tim Ostrem, who farms west of Beresford and serves on the board of South Dakota Soybean Checkoff.

“We want to expose the city to the benefits of biodiesel and the health benefits it creates. It’s less toxic,” Ostrem said. “And it’s renewable. We produce soybeans every year in South Dakota.”

Administered by the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, the checkoff refers to the money contributed by farmers from each bushel sold. That amount is one-half of 1% of the price of each bushel. The money is used for research and promotion for soybean products.


City officials say 120,000 gallons of B-20 displaces 24,000 gallons of petroleum diesel and reduces carbon emissions by more than 450,000 pounds.

Partnering with South Dakota Soybean makes a lot of sense, Meier said.

“We are supporting our local producers and the state’s largest economic sector,” she said. “There were a lot of pieces that made it something to move forward with.”

Ostrem said it’s not just Sioux Falls that can benefit from these programs. The checkoff is interested in working with our communities and counties to expand the use of B-20 and other products.

“We just want to get it out there in front of the consumers and the general public,” he said.

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Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for the Forum News Service in Sioux Falls. Reach him at plalley@forumcomm.com.
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