Musician Jack Johnson, local government officials and environmentalists attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at USA Gas Station this past Friday to mark the opening of Santa Barbara’s first biodiesel filling station, a move that could help Santa Barbara win back the “defeated” horizon.

Approximately 50 people gathered at the gas station, located downtown at 626 Carrillo St., to celebrate the availability of the cleaner-burning fuel to Santa Barbara residents. The USA Gas Station will offer B99 – a blend of 99 percent biodiesel and less than one percent petroleum diesel.

Biodiesel is a biodegradable, nontoxic alternative to diesel and other types of gasoline. All cars with diesel engines can run on biodiesel, however, the majority of passenger cars in the U.S. run on petroleum.

“Everybody is concerned about global warming, but driving cars just adds to the problem,” Abe Powell, president of the nonprofit organization Get Oil Out, said.

Get Oil Out began in 1969 to stop oil development in California and since then, the group has taken several steps to reduce oil dependency, Powell said. He said Get Oil Out has spent the last seven years helping develop and promote biodiesel.

“We wanted to make it available to the general public to put something other than petroleum in their cars,” Powell said.

According to a Get Oil Out press release, biodiesel has the ability to reduce air pollution by up to 90 percent, carbon dioxide emissions by up to 78 percent and cancer-causing compounds by up to 94 percent. It is safe for the environment, biodegradable and produces significantly less air pollution than diesel fuel.

To date, USA Gas Stations have opened five biodiesel stations in California – two in Los Angeles, one in Ventura, one in Santa Cruz and one in Santa Barbara, station owner Kristopher Moller said.

Powell said California is a prime location for biodiesel fuel stations because the state has one of the worst air quality ratings in the country. Santa Barbara, which is frequently attributed as being one of the birthplaces of the modern environmental movement, is an ideal area in which to provide products such as alternative fuel, Powell said.

“Santa Barbara is a center of the environmental movement – we have always been a leader in progressive environmentalism,” he said.

Currently, biodiesel costs roughly $0.50 more per gallon than regular diesel, a factor that may explain the slow growth of the industry. USA Gas Station’s Santa Barbara location sells biodiesel for $3.49 per gallon.

Santa Barbara mayor Marty Blum, who attended the opening, said the Santa Barbara city council passed a resolution in the 1980s stating that the city would live within its resources, and the opening of USA Gas Station’s biodiesel pumps adheres to that pledge.

“This is a very simple thing we can do – we drive our cars, but we use biodiesel,” Blum said. “We haven’t had any problems with biodiesel, and I don’t think we will.”

UCSB alumnus and musician Jack Johnson attended the event with his family. He said his band runs all of its tour buses and trucks on biodiesel, and he owns a biodiesel vehicle.

“The environment is important to me because I’m a human on earth,” Johnson said.

Current UCSB students also showed up at the event, such as first-year business economics major Kalani Miller. She said she has taken a few environmental studies classes from which she has learned about the need to decrease gasoline consumption and use alternative fuels.

“Fossil fuels are ruining our environment, and we need to protect our environment,” Miller said. “We can do it one gas station at a time.”

Blum said she is happy to be the leader of such an environmentally friendly community.

“I’m so proud of the people of Santa Barbara who step up to the plate and do this kind of thing,” she said.