Willie Nelson has fueled millions of fans worldwide with music for decades, but when it comes to his fuel of choice, the country music star has proclaimed himself a fan of biodiesel. Biodiesel, an alternative fuel made from renewable fats or vegetable oils, can be used in any diesel engine, including the star’s 2005 Mercedes 320 CDI. Nelson picked up his brand new vehicle at the dock and drove it straight to the pump at Pacific Biodiesel, a Hawaii-based manufacturer.
“I am absolutely a fan of biodiesel,” Nelson said. “I use it in my car because I’m a firm believer in using renewable fuels that are better for our environment. We should all be doing our part to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and contribute to our own economy. On top of all that, biodiesel use helps our nation's family farmers, while preserving the land for future generations.”
Willie Nelson with his new Mercedes outside Pacific Biodiesel
“Many people like me who grew up in rural America were raised on Willie Nelson’s music and revere him as a musical giant,” said Joe Jobe, executive director of the nonprofit National Biodiesel Board (NBB). “He is adored by millions around the world, and his support for biodiesel will be a tremendous help in raising awareness for the fuel.”
Pacific Biodiesel, an industry pioneer, has produced the alternative fuel in Hawaii for eight years. The company takes in cooking oil from island restaurants and processes it into biodiesel at facilities on Maui and Oahu. Although biodiesel is generally more expensive than petroleum diesel, Pacific Biodiesel has a unique market in Hawaii, where diesel fuel currently sells for more than $2.50 a gallon on Maui and pure biodiesel (B100) sells for $2.35 a gallon. Nelson uses B100 in his Mercedes.
“When I fill up at Pacific Biodiesel, I’m doing something good for America, and that makes me feel better about my personal impact on the planet,” Nelson said. His wife, Annie Nelson, also has used B100 in her Volkswagen Jetta TDI wagon for more than a year.
Willie Nelson is one of a growing number of celebrities who are “fans” of biodiesel. Others who have used the fuel on tour or in their personal vehicles include Daryl Hannah, Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, the Indigo Girls, Concrete Blond, and singer Perry Farrell of the band Jane’s Addiction, who steered the music festival Lollapalooza to use biodiesel.
Biodiesel is nontoxic, biodegradable and burns significantly cleaner. It reduces soot, greenhouse gases and air toxics, making it better for the environment and human health. Biodiesel emissions reduce by 80 to 90 percent potential cancer causing compounds found in diesel exhaust.
Biodiesel has similar horsepower, torque and BTU content compared to petroleum diesel. It offers excellent lubricity and higher cetane than diesel fuel. About 400 fleets, such as school districts, national parks and military bases, currently use biodiesel nationwide.
Pacific Biodiesel was recognized last fall at an award ceremony recognizing the County of Maui. With the staunch support of the County in the 90s, Pacific Biodiesel was able to site its original facility at the Central Maui Landfill which led to one of the first biodiesel plants in the country, and the conversion of waste cooking oil into clean biodiesel right at the landfill site. The Maui County Administration and County Council continued their support for renewable fuel with the 2002 passage of a 100% County road tax exemption for biodiesel which has enabled Maui residents to pay the lowest retail pump price for B100 in the state and in the nation.
Readers can learn more about biodiesel by visiting www.biodiesel.org. To learn more about Pacific Biodiesel, visit www.biodiesel.com  This material is based upon work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2003-45300-01811. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.