Media Advisory

For Immediate Release

Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition’s Biodiesel Workshop set for Smithsonian Institution’s New Vehicle Maintenance Facility

Washington, DC (March 26, 2012) – The mission of the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition (GWRCCC) to reduce petroleum consumption and dependency, and to educate about alternative fuels, is getting help April 11 from one the world’s pre-eminent research and teaching entities.

The Smithsonian Institution will host “The Case for Biodiesel Workshop” from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 11 at the Institution’s brand new Vehicle Maintenance Facility in Suitland, Maryland.

The workshop is a project of the GWRCCC with support from the United Soybean Board (USB). For vehicle fleet managers and officials of fleet owning corporations in the region, it will be a close-up demonstration of the benefits and opportunities possible by incorporating soy biodiesel into fleet operations.

GWRCCC Executive Director Ron Flowers said the Smithsonian’s new vehicle maintenance building, its technicians, its soy-based biodiesel fueling program and an array of its fleet of alternative fuel vehicles will be the classroom, teachers and exhibits for the workshop. “The Clean Cities Coalitions are here, in part, to help provide some expertise in the world of alternative fuels,” Flowers said. “It’s great to have such a respected organization as the Smithsonian to join us in this effort.”

The Smithsonian, in its drive for sustainable operations and stewardship of the world’s resources, implemented a soy-based biodiesel fuel program for its fleet to cut petroleum consumption. “We are doing something that will be a learning experience and hopefully be a model for others,” said William Griffiths, fleet manager for the Institution.

Helping others learn is half of the Smithsonian’s mission: “The increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Griffiths said on April 11 his technicians will display a variety of the Institution’s alternative fuel vehicles and discuss their knowledge and experiences with the soy-based biodiesel program with the fleet managers, vehicle maintenance foremen, corporate executives and public policy makers attending.

The Smithsonian’s fleet Smithsonian’s world-wide fleet of some 1,500 motor vehicles and equipment, while relatively small, is a perfect sample from which to learn. “The Smithsonian Institution has a broad range of programs and support functions that other fleets might not have,” he said. “The types of vehicles vary widely because of the complexity of the mission”

That means a range from cars and light duty pickup trucks, to cargo vans, supporting facilities, transportation, and law enforcement to the specialized heavy trucks that transport priceless collections, artifacts, and animals. The fleet also includes a number of off-road assets.

The transition to soy-based biodiesel for the fleet was nearly seamless, Griffiths said. “Nobody had any problems. We took the time to educate our people that it wouldn’t be a problem, and we didn’t have any problems,” “This is a whole new realm for a lot of people trying to figure these things out,” Griffiths said about biodiesel and tracking usage to gauge performance. “We’re here serving as a model.”

What the Institution has learned about implementing a soy-biodiesel fuel program, tracking usage and gauging performance, it will now teach others. “They can hear about it from me, but then we’ll let them hear it from my guys,” Griffiths said. “If my technicians are buying into it, that’s what really tells. We’ll give them the real deal.”

The building’s nine work bays will be info stops for attendees to learn about the technology, availability and performance of the alternatives. “The equipment is going to be right there, and that’s where the focus will be,” the fleet manager said. “People are going to learn that it’s not just John Deere and it’s not just Freightliner. It’s also Cummings and Cat and GM and Ford.”

The sustainability/energy performance scorecard kept by the federal Office of Management and Budget found the Smithsonian’s fleet changes reduced its annual petroleum use nearly 43 percent, compared to the 2005 benchmark year. That surpasses the original goal of a 20 percent cut by 2015, as set by President Obama’s Executive Order 13514.

Curtailing petroleum use is what Clean Cities Coalitions has been advocating for nearly two decades, GWRCCC Director Flowers said. Coalition members, stakeholders and the general public can benefit. “We bring something to the table that can be of real value for them,” Flowers said. For example, the coalition’s provide expertise in assessing the choices in alternative fuels, and what might work best for a given business or enterprise.

On April 11, invited guests begin registration at 8 a.m. and enjoy coffee and pastries during a meet-and-greet with other guests until 9 a.m. in the new building, which will close operations for the day. There will be a welcome, fun facts about how soy becomes electricity, then questions and answers about B20 (a blend that is 80 percent diesel and 20 percent fuel oil from soy), about the types of equipment there and the versatility of applications for biodiesel.

Tours of the new facility will begin with stops at the nine work bays, where Smithsonian technicians will discuss the biodiesel program, the alternative fuel vehicle there and those they work on daily. Visitors may continue, during and immediately after lunch, to tour the building and see and touch the equipment. Personnel from the Smithsonian’s fleet operation, the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition and others will staff information tables and provide information about alternative fuels, as well as about soy-based biomass and biobased products.

“It will be a learning experience, not a dog and pony show,” Flowers said. “People who come looking for real information will come away empowered, knowing this was a good way to spend four or five hours.”

Anyone interested in more information about the workshop, the biodiesel program at the Smithsonian or the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition should visit or email Ron Flowers, Executive Director at Media should contact Carla R. York at 423-802-6190 or via email at


2012-05-19T22:04:38+00:00 March 25th, 2012|Events|0 Comments

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