SPECIAL REPORT: Willie Nelson touts biodiesel in midst of Texas debate

| 11/22/2006

Nov. 22, 2006 - Country music legend Willie Nelson has a personal connection with his fans, and when he speaks, they tend to listen.

That was the case for a number of XM Satellite Radio listeners on Wednesday, Nov. 22, when Nelson, a guest of Bill Mack on The Open Road Channel 171, asked listeners to tell Texas Gov. Rick Perry to stand up for biodiesel producers and retailers in the Lone Star State.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality earlier this year demanded that the biodiesel industry prove by the end of 2006 that the fuel exceeds the upcoming 2007 national emissions standards or be forced out of the market.

It was evident to Nelson and Mack that the state-imposed deadline was looming, and no reports or answers were coming forward.

"The people of Texas are concerned and they want answers," Nelson told Mack.

Nelson is a marketer of biodiesel as a clean, renewable source of fuel. A number of states are engaged in biofuel production.

Nelson told Mack the biodiesel industry helps local economies, and renewable fuels are an important part of future growth.

Texas is currently the second-largest producer of biodiesel, which can be produced from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled restaurant grease.

Nelson and Mack repeated the governor's office phone number on the air and told listeners to call.

Spokeswoman Kathy Walt in Gov. Perry's office said Wednesday afternoon that a number of calls regarding biodiesel were coming in, but that she would not characterize it as "a flood of calls."

"I am not aware of any plans to ban the use of biodiesel in the state," Walt said, adding, however, that the state's environmental commission is engaged in a review of biodiesel.

Land Line Magazine attempted to reach officials at the environmental commission's office Wednesday afternoon, but a recording on that line stated the office had closed at noon for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The National Biodiesel Board has reported that biodiesel is a registered fuel and fuel additive recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency and "meets clean diesel standards established by the California Air Resources Board."

Measuring up to petroleum diesel, biodiesel meets the health testing requirements of the Clean Air Act, according to the National Biodiesel Board.

Willie Nelson has been singing that song all along, and his listeners agree.

"I think (biodiesel) is one of the greatest things to ever come out of the pasture," a caller on Bill Mack's radio show said.

Nelson said truckers and listeners deserve an answer or a report soon.