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Renewable Energy: Biodiesel

Copyright 2006 Donovan Baldwin You may have heard of biodiesel (or even biowillie), but for those who don't know much about it, we will get to an explanation of it in a moment. I just wanted to start with a small list of the benefits of using biodiesel. BENEFITS OF BIODIESEL Requires no special delivery equipment and can use existing infrastructure. Can be used in present diesel engines without modification Reduces carbon dioxide emissions from 15% to over 75% over petroleum diesel, based on the biodiesel blend. Emits fewer air pollutants in general. It is a completely renewable fuel.

Reduces dependence on foreign oil. It is safer to handle, store and transport than petrolem diesel. WHAT IS BIODIESEL? Biodiesel is a renewable diesel fuel which can be made from waste products such as vegetable oils and animal fats, or even from vegetable matter, such as corn, which is specifically intended to produce it. While not often used as "neat" or pure biodiesel, also known as B100, blends of up to 20% are common and can be used in most diesel powered equipment with no modification at all. There are some engines, built since 1994, which can use B100.

It should be mentioned, however, that experts recommend that users check with their engine manufacturers to see if there might be a conflict or problem. There is still some uncertainty about how the use of biodiesel fuel, particularly B100, may affect the life of the engine. As pointed out in the section on benefits (above), biodiesel fuel reduces air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. MAKING BIODIESEL Three great things about biodiesel fuel is that it is renewable, biodegradeable, and non-toxic. Biodiesel is the name given to acid methyl esters intended for use as fuel. Another product formed during the production of biodiesel is glycerol, which is widely used in cosmetics. Slightly over half of the production resources can use any fat or oil, including recycled cooking grease. The remaining producers primarily uses vegetable oils. Due mainly to cost considerations, soy oil is the prime source for most commercial production. It is estimated that approximately 5% of on-road biodiesel could be produced from all sources under optimum conditions.

THE MARKET AND THE INCENTIVES Biodiesel is in wide use among such entities as the U. Postal Service and the U. Departments of Defense, Energy, and Agriculture. Many school districts, municipal transit authorities, national parks, public utility companies, and garbage and recycling companies also use the fuel. It is also becoming more popular among trucking companies, truck owners, and farmers thanks in part to the efforts of country singer Willie Nelson, who now has his own brand known as BioWillie. At the time this article is being written, there is a tax incentive offered as a federal tax credit. This incentive is mainly being taken by producers who are passing it on to consumers in the form of a price reduction at the pump. The USDA estimates this incentive will bring production of biodiesel to at least 124 million gallons per year.

Other factors, such as costs of petroleum sources could cause an even higher production. AVAILABILITY Fleet owners have found that it is not particularly difficult to set up their own biodiesel fueling facilities. While there are some practical considerations which might need to be overcome, fleet owners are finding that it offers some rewards economically as well as in terms of safety and responsibility as this fuel is, and is seen by the community as, being ecologically sensible. Some of the business and government entities happy with their biodiesel refit are: L. Bean, the U. Military, and Cranmore Mountain Resort in New Hampshire. Of particular interest was that Yellowstone National Park confirmed in their study of the feasibility of using biodiesel fueled trucks that park bears did not seem to be particularly attracted to vehicles fueled by this food-based diesel product. While commercial availability is growing and more stations and truck stops are adding biodiesel, it can still be difficult to locate, particularly for the traveler.

The federal government offers a Biodiesel Locator service at its Alternative Fuel Data Center at http://www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/infrastructure/locator.html , and there is a BioWillie Locator as well at http://www.wnbiodiesel.com/locations.html .


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