11/3/2012 7:00 AM
By Michael Short Delaware Correspondent
BRIDGEVILLE, Del. — Biodiesel has been named the official diesel fuel of Punkin Chunkin.
Punkin Chunkin was expected to draw crowds of more than 70,000 visitors this weekend to see which teams can “chunk” a 10-pound pumpkin the longest distance using a variety of contraptions, ranging from catapults and slingshots to air cannons.
The current world record for distance is held by Young Glory III, which hurled a pumpkin 4,483.51 feet in 2008.
It’s half good-old-boy fun and half serious mechanical marvel, with more than a bit of the unusual thrown in for good measure.
Jeff Wheatley, a farmer and partner in the United Flingdom III chunking machine, farms the field near Bridgeville on which the three-day-long “Chunk” is held.
Wheatley and other soybean farmers pay a small assessment, called a “checkoff,” when they sell their soybeans. The checkoff, administered in Delaware by the Delaware Soybean Board and nationally by the United Soybean Board, is sponsoring the use of biodiesel at the Chunk.
The soybean checkoff helped develop biodiesel and supports marketing of biodiesel as a way to increase demand for soybeans, according to Susanne Zilberfarb of the Delaware Soybean Board.
Now, those 70,000 or more visitors will have a chance to learn about the versatility of biodiesel.
Biodiesel is used every year to help power the generators that run the carnival rides at the Delaware State Fair in Harrington. Much like the state fair, Punkin Chunkin is a chance to spread the word about the alternative fuel, Zilberfarb said.
“It’s a fun connection. It’s something our farmers can be proud of.”
There’s a ready market for soybean meal, which is used to feed poultry and livestock. Soybean oil, which is extracted when the soybeans are crushed, is used in products like salad dressing and mayonnaise.
The Delaware Soybean Board, however, is always looking for new potential markets and products.
“You’re always looking for stronger demand. There’s only so much salad dressing you need.”
Biodiesel is defined as a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement made from soybean oil and other types of fats and oils, such as recycled cooking oil. It is the first and only commercial-scale fuel produced nationwide to meet the EPA’s definition as an advanced biofuel under the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard, which is spurring development of sustainable alternatives to imported oil.
The EPA has determined that biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57 to 86 percent compared with petroleum diesel, depending on the feedstock used, Zilberfarb said.
More than a billion gallons of biodiesel were produced and sold in the United States last year.
Biodiesel may be used “neat” or in any blend with petroleum diesel to provide premium benefits. The “Chunk” will be burning a blend known as B5 — 5 percent biodiesel and 95 percent petroleum diesel —in the diesel generators that power the light towers. The light towers are the biggest users of the approximately 500 to 600 gallons of fuel used each year at the Punkin Chunkin.
Frank Shade, the director of media and promotions for the annual event, said it’s a logical choice for the event to go green and start using biodiesel made from soybeans.
After all, Punkin Chunkin takes place in a farm field that is usually planted with acres and acres of soybeans, harvested only days before the monstrous machines move in.
Shade’s only regret is that they can’t use more home-grown fuel to power the pumpkins.
“It’s great we can grow our own fuel. It fits right into our spectrum of belief,” he said. “I jumped at the opportunity.”
Shade said the “Chunk” tries hard to be community minded. They make a point of picking up trash and trying to leave Wheatley’s fields better than before they arrived, he said.
Punkin Chunkin also donates large amounts of money to charity and regularly awards scholarships. Among the many organizations supported by the event are: Autism Delaware, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Meals on Wheels and the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department.
“We try to do the right thing,” Shade said.
For more information about the Delaware Soybean Board, visit www.desoybeans.org. For more information about biodiesel, visit www.biodiesel.org. For more information about Punkin Chunkin, visit www.punkinchunkin.com.