Apr 18 2012
Before Mr. Thompson, the CEO of a Biodiesel fuel company, came to speak to us on Friday, what did our class know about Biodiesel fuel or even just diesel fuel? We knew that diesel fuel was more expensive at gas stations than gasoline, that trucks and other large vehicles often run on diesel fuel, and that diesel fuel would destroy a gasoline engine. But that was about it.
The first thing Mr. Thompson want to make clear to us was that BIODIESEL IS NOT ETHANOL. Ethanol is a corn-based fuel that is made by distilling the sugars and starches into alcohol. It is then mixed with gasoline. Ethanol is not only less efficient than gasoline but it also takes away from our food supply. Basic rule of economics: when the supply of a product decreases the price increases. On top of its lack of efficiency and the fact that it increases the price of food, because it is corn-based all the same fossil fuel inputs and environmental impacts associated with farming. When you add up all these costs ethanol is energy negative (it takes more energy to make it than it provides) and in the eyes of Mr. Thompson and many others to be a bad fuel.
Mr. Thompson went on to explain what biodiesel fuel actually is and does. Biodiesel is fuel made from natural oils (soy, canola, poultry, algae, or Mr. Thompson’s company made fuel from used cooking oil) that can be used in a diesel engine. It can be combined with petroleum-based diesel fuel in any percentage and still run a diesel engine. In fact, the main reason biodiesel even needs to be mixed with petrodiesel fuel is that it tends to congeal when it is cold and block up engines. Petrodiesel’s lower freezing point prevents this tendency when the two are mixed. Compared to regular diesel fuel biodiesel fuel can also reduce carbon emissions by as much as 75%.
Just a couple of videos to show you how biodiesel fits into our country today
Mr. Thompson finished his lesson by telling us what biodiesel is not. Again IT IS NOT ETHANOL. It is not simply waste vegetable oil taken from someones kitchen and dumped into a gas tank. It has to be processed first or else it would eventually ruin your engine. On the downside, in most places it is not cheaper than regular diesel fuel or gasoline or available in as great quantities… yet. But on the upside it is not flammable, hazardous, carcinogenic, and since it is just natural oils, it biodegrades very quickly.
Biodiesel fuel has many exiting possibilities and in a few decades it could be one of our major sources of fuel.