Will Blog for Experience: Ashley

I'm a student blogger for Experience.com and if my blog gets the most readers out of these 5 blogs I will be going to Washington, D.C. for a job shadow at the Department of Energy, courtesy of CBCampus. Experience is a career site specifically for college students & alumni. They provide extraordinary job opportunities, real-world insights, and a network of inspirational role-models to help students explore and launch careers they love. Keep reading my blog if you want me to lead this challenge!

Experience, Inc.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Green Up or Get Out!

I have received several interesting questions since the start of this contest. I apologize for not answering each sooner, but I want to research each question before responding. I also want to answer questions in the order that most benefits the clarity of my blog. I appreciate everyone's interest, patience, and support.

On that note, I have been asked by Ms. Fisher, "...will BD [biodiesel] increase the cost of vegetable oil and other products such as McDonald's fries...There is supply and demand..."

The use of vegetable oil as an alternative fuel source has existed as long as the diesel engine, itself. In fact, Rudolph Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, "...experimented with fuels ranging from powdered coal to peanut oil." Despite early interest in such alternatives, diesel engines were adapted in the 20th century to burn petroleum distillate. This form of petroleum was both cheap and widely available at the time. Eventually, the cost of petroleum distillate rose, and interest in biodiesel re-surged during the late 1970s. The commercial production of biodiesel in the United States began during the 1990s.
-quotes taken directly from http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/analysispaper/biodiesel/index.html

When gasoline-powered automobiles were introduced in the early 20th century, "...oil companies were obliged to refine so much crude oil to supply gasoline that they were left with a surplus of distillate, which is an excellent fuel for diesel engines and much less expensive than vegetable oils. On the other hand, resource depletion has always been a concern with regard to petroleum, and farmers have always sought new markets for their products. Consequently, work has continued on the use of vegetable oils as fuel."
-quotes taken directly from

Early durability tests showed that engines would fail if using fuel blends composed partly of vegetable oil. However, continued testing demonstrated that engines would run successfully if the vegetable oil was mixed with certain alcohols. These early tests greatly contributed to our current understanding of biodiesel.

In the early 20th century, petroleum distillate was preferable to vegetable oil because it was inexpensive and widely available. However, the tables have turned. Crude oil has become much scarcer, and there is no longer a "surplus" of petroleum distillate. This shortage has sparked interest in biodiesel. No one will argue that we are not terribly dependent on foreign oil, and as global tensions increase, Americans must begin to embrace alternative fuel sources.

Unfortunately, Ms. Fisher is correct that supply and demand control our economy. While the ingredients of biodiesel are less costly than crude oil, their worth will only increase with their popularity. Some proponents of biodiesel fuel will argue that because the petroleum substitute can be made from waste oil (recycled cooking oil from restaurants), its cost will remain static. Call me a pessimist, but I credit the low cost to the current low demand. The majority of Americans have no use for left over bacon grease, and restaurants are happy to lessen their mess at closing time by pawning off the crud to a few eco-friendly hippies. Believe me, if there was currently a profit to be made, fast food franchises would be quick to smell the bacon-no pun intended.

Luckily, yellow grease is unlike oil in that it is neither a natural resource or nonrenewable. Looking back to the recent transfat regulation and the American uproar that immediately followed, I do not predict any sudden shortage of double cheeseburger combo meals. For now, our beloved grease is safe. This immunity means that there will likely be enough waste oil to continue the production of biodiesel. An increased reliance on soy beans is also likely, but at least higher costs of this ingredient will benefit our national economy. Rather than sending United Sates dollars overseas, we can keep them at home, strengthening the now shaky American farm industry.

Despite my prediction that the cost of biodiesel ingredients will inevitably rise, alternative fuel sources seem to be America's best bet. That being said, I feel that the study of alternative energy as a whole, not just that of biodiesel, should be greatly increased. Until we can find a way to fully replenish what we are taking from nature, we have no other choice but to explore our other energy options.


  • At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Lynne Stanley Fisher said…

    You've given me more healthy food for thought. Thank you, Ashley.

  • At 2:56 PM, Blogger Merry Helen said…

    I have enjoyed reading all ur blogs lately!! I hope you do well with it all!! Good luck!!

  • At 7:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm surprised that you did not mention how Brazil is a country that is currently using biofuel (with sugar cane) as another standard means of providing a source of energy for running cars... even offering at "gas" station fuel derived from the sugar cane. The U.S. government would benefit from taking a closer look at its biofuel infrastructure. Also in the midwest, biofuel derived from corn and wheat is making headway.
    I like your blog; more people need to be thinking of the future of biofuel!

  • At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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