Will Blog for Experience: Ashley

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Your Fries Give Me Gas! (Part Two)

Welcome back to "Your Fries Give Me Gas." Now that you know a little more about biodiesel, let's talk about its drawbacks, implications, and advocates.

By now you are probably wondering, "so, what's the catch?"

Sadly, no fuel is perfect. Biodiesel Now.com very hesitantly cites the following drawbacks:

  • Primarily that it's not readily available in much of the nation, although availability has jumped considerably in the last five years. Commercial consumption jumped from 500,000 gallons in 2000 to 15 million gallons in 2001 to 75 million gallons in 2005. And who knows just how much home-produced biodiesel there is.
  • Biodiesel will clean your injectors and fuel lines. If you have an old diesel vehicle, there's a chance that your first few tanks of biodiesel could free up all the accumulated crud and clog your fuel filter. But this is a GOOD thing... think of it as kicking up dust around the house when you clean.
  • It has a higher gel point. B100 (100% biodiesel) gets slushy a little under 32°F. But B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% regular diesel - more commonly available than B100) has a gel point of -15°F. Like regular diesel, the gel point can be lowered further with additives such as kerosene (blended into winter diesel in cold-weather areas).
  • Old vehicles (older than mid-90s) might require upgrades of fuel lines (a cheap, easy upgrade), as BD can eat through certain types of rubber. Almost all new vehicles should have no problem with BD.
  • Finally, the one emission that goes up with biodiesel is NOx. NOx contributes to smog. We feel that a slight increase (up to 15%) in NOx is greatly offset by the reduction in all other emissions and the major reduction in greenhouse gasses.
-bulletted text taken directly from http://www.biodieselnow.com/

Although BiodieselNow.com qualifies any drawbacks to the use of biodiesel, many critics are less optimistic. Besides fearing each of the above, critics of biodiesel have also noted a link between its use and premature injection pump failures. The growth location of the oil producing plants is another issue of concern. Environmentalists worry that the United States will clear cut large areas of forest in an attempt to grow such crops.

The Union of Concerned Scientists writes: "When it comes to buying a new car, gasoline-powered models are better than diesels on toxic soot and smog-forming emissions. The downside to current diesels is that they produce 10 to 20 times more toxic particulates than their gasoline counterparts, more than can be made up for with the use of biodiesel. Diesels fare even worse when it comes to smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions, with greater than 20 times the emissions of a comparable gasoline vehicle."

While proponents and critics disagree over the specific rewards and costs of biodiesal, the fact remains that biodiesel is a new subject product. Until more research is done, biodiesel will carry with it some degree of risk.

What effect will biodiesel have on the market?

The effect of biodiesel upon the United States market is yet to be seen. An article from 24-7 Press Release predicts that biofuel production will exceed 16 billion gallons by the year 2015. With ethenol making up 14.20 billion gallons, it is unknown how much of the remaining 1.8 billion gallons will be filled by biodiesel. The use of agricultural resources along with the international trade of certain commodities will be greatly affected if the above prediction proves to be true. For example, "...corn that is used for the production of ethanol fuel will drip out of stocks now allocated to animal feeds and exports. Since more than 60% of the global trade in corn is supplied by the U.S., reallocation of this source to fuel is likely to translate into higher prices for corn in the world." The article continues that such production "can invigorate the local economy, specifically in the agricultural sector, and it can also help in reducing the imports of oil. Demand will continue to grow further as Biofuels find new applications in automobile, aviation, and fuel cell sectors to name a few."

Does biodiesel have any famous advocates?

Like many other enviromental issues, biodiesel has become a hot topic in Hollywood. Celebrities including Daryl Hannah, Guster, Woody Harrleson, and of course, Willie Nelson, support the biodiesel effort.

Perhaps the ultimate celebrity proponent, Willie Nelson even has his own brand of biodiesel! He says, "I am absolutely a fan of biodiesel, I use it in my car because I am a firm believer in using renewable fuels that are better for our environment. We should all be doing our part to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and contribute to our own economy. On top of all that, biodiesel use helps our nation's family farmers, while preserving the land for future generations."

To learn more about Bio Willie Diesel Fuel, visit http://www.wnbiodiesel.com/index.html.

Visit http://www.biodiesel.org/resources/users/artists/ to see which famous faces use biodiesel fuel.

Ausitn E., I hope that this has helped to answer your question. I also hope that those of you who do not know much about biodiesel now have a better understanding of the diesel fuel alternative. I wanted to present both sides of the biodiesel discussion, and let you decide for yourself.

11 Comments:

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    Ashley, will BD increase the cost of vegetable oil and other products such as McDonald's fries? Seriously. There is supply and demand. Some wiley character will figure out a way to create a shortage to make his fortune. Would widespread use of BD require more government oversight and regulations?

     
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