Video: 'Bio-Willie' keeps singer on the road

By Bob Faw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/1/2006 7:32:47 PM ET 2006-02-02T00:32:47

"Like a band of gypsies, we go down the highway," sings Willie Nelson.

And he should know. Every year, going to and from concerts, he logs 135,000 miles "on the road." Only these days, instead of filling up his customized bus with diesel fuel, Willie now pumps "bio-Willie."

""It's cheap, and we don't have to start a war over it," he says.

"It" is an alternative fuel, made from crops grown in America; while slightly more expensive than regular diesel, its sweet smell already has its namesake crooning.

"I sleep right back there over that engine," says Willie as he gives us a tour of his bus. "I'd rather be breathing french fries or soybeans than diesel fuel."

Only a handful of stations in four states market "bio-Willie," but the concept seems to be catching on. The Department of Defense used more than 10 million gallons of biodiesel in its non-combat vehicles last year. And Minnesota now requires all diesel fuel pumped in the state to contain 2 percent biodiesel.

"Is this the only solution?" asks Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. "No. Can it be an even bigger piece in the future? You bet."

You bet it can also cut our dependence on foreign suppliers.

"I see this as a way for the farmer to grow fuel and food and put him back in business again," says Nelson.

Distributors complain the supply of biodiesel is erratic and sometimes contaminated. And air pollution experts worry that, without additives, it increases nitrogen oxide, a harmful pollutant.

"Is this going to be the solution to our energy problems?" asks air pollution consultant Todd Tamura. "Is this going to solve all air pollution problems? And the answer is no."

But for one road warrior at least, biodiesel is the future; and the future is now.

Willie Nelson says he doesn't see any downside to biodiesel. So he's on the road again, fueling up what he hopes is a revolution.

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