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Biofuel Answers Demand to Reduce Carbon Footprint in Medical Facilities

Phil Wallis, for HealthLeaders Media, September 29, 2009

Energy efficiency and reducing your carbon footprint are key objectives in the medical industry today. Whether it is the impact on the environment or just the desire to go green, medical facilities are seeking new, alternative renewable fuel sources.

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards under the Clean Air Act to improve the nation's air quality. Health institutions are now looking for renewable energy options to reduce their impact on the environment. In addition, earlier this year healthcare sector leaders urged President Obama to invest in alternative energy and green jobs in healthcare under the Renewable Energy and Green Healthcare Jobs Initiative.

One option for health institutions is to utilize alternative renewable fuel sources in boilers and generators to heat and power buildings. Generally, alternative fuels have been perceived as costing more than traditional fossil fuels. However, that is not the case. Some biofuels in today's market are cost-competitive with existing fuel oils, and include the added benefit of being environmentally friendly.

It can seem like a daunting task for hospitals to build new green construction or retrofit older buildings. In reality, one simple way to reduce a carbon footprint is to switch to an alternative fuel with lower emissions – with no capital costs for construction or retrofitting. Switching boilers from standard diesel fuel to a biofuel can have a significant, positive impact on a building's carbon footprint and emissions for medical facilities. But what exactly is biofuel?

Biofuel can be broadly defined as solid, liquid, or gas fuel consisting of, or derived from, renewable, recently living biological material—most commonly plants. This is in contrast to fossil fuels, which are derived from non-renewable biological material formed from decayed remains of prehistoric plants and animals. Benefits of biofuel include the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy independence through the growth of domestic energy sources to establish a sustainable, renewable future energy supply.

But are all biofuels the same? No. Biodiesels have been on the market for a while, but now health institutions can take advantage of second-generation biofuels, which are not only sustainable but are also cost competitive with traditional fuels. Second-generation biofuels are ready to use in boiler applications as a 100% replacement for distillate fuels without mixing or blending with other fuels, complicated equipment modification, or loss of significant engine performance.

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