Diminishing Petroleum Supplies, Global Warming, and Security Problems Make Biofuels Essential
The boat was attracting attention at the fuel dock. The fuel attendant was fueling it with used vegetable cooking oil that originated from nearby seafood restaurant. A small refinery adjacent to the restaurant pipes the biodiesel to the dock pump. The boat’s diesel started instantly and the motor ran very quietly. The onlookers smiled upon smelling the slight potato/fish/chicken fry smell coming as an invisible vapor from the exhaust. This biofuel has very little harmful pollution to the water or the air. Perhaps most importantly, biofuels dramatically reduces CO2 emissions, which is helping to stop “global warming”. Now all over the country, fuel stations are adjacent to restaurants in truck stops with the same type of micro-refinery producing their own cheaper and pollution-free biodiesel. Also, there are more micro-refineries nearby farms serving several farms with their oil-producing vegetables or animal fat. The United States is starting to catch up with Europe, who manufactures well over 70 % diesel-powered cars.
The above is a vision I have for the future, can it come true? Already, Europe produces over 50 % diesel-powered autos, and all sizes of biodiesel refineries are popping up everywhere here and Europe. Scientists agree that fossil fuels, whether gasoline or diesel, will probably disappear in 45 years. Every year, the diminished petroleum supply will get even more expensive. Presently, in Europe where petroleum is about $8.00 per gallon, countries are ordering biofuel from the U.S. Sometime, in the near future, despite the rising cost of vegetable oil and animal fat, biofuels will be cheaper than fossil fuels here in our country.
The Diesel Engine
As a retired yacht captain, I know of many advantages of diesel engines. Any commercial fisherman or captain of a passenger-carrying vessel can relate to these advantages, and hardly any of them would think of using a gasoline-powered boat instead. Matt Ruby, who owns three fishing boats run out of Little River, S. C. and also operates the fish plant there, maintains that diesel engines are “much more efficient, durable and safer than gasoline powered ones.”
Dr. Rudolf Diesel developed the diesel engine in 1895 in Germany to run on peanut oil. Compared to gasoline, the fuel for a diesel engine is almost inflammable. Also, there is hardly any carbon monoxide (as all carbons are reduced significantly) associated with diesel fuel. Being a compression-driven engine, there is no need for electronics that corrode easily such as spark plugs, points, condensers, distributors and wires that connect them making the diesel engines much simpler and easier to repair.
Diesels have not caught on well in the U.S. because of smelly diesel emissions associated with trucks, buses and a poorly built diesels (adapted from gasoline engines) by GM in the 1980’s and the older noisy smelly Mercedes diesel powered vehicles. In addition, poor marketing of diesel power has plagued the U. S. Automobile Manufacturers.
An owner of an older Mercedes diesel testifies that with biodiesel and proper maintenance, there is no noise and odor problem. Plus, there is the amazing Mercedes Million Mile Club - great testimony for a durable car with the engine that keeps it running for so many miles with proper maintenance. Now there is the highly rated E320 Bluetec diesel and here is part of one of a number of glowing reviews: “All the reasons I think diesels are superior to gasoline cars are embodied in the E320 BLUETEC. For all intents and purposes, you may as well be driving a gasoline-powered E350 -- except you won't have to visit the gas station nearly as often.”
(Aaron Gold-allaboutcars.com) Volkswagen Corporation knows about the problem of poor diesel reputation and does not even use the term diesel but “TDI” (turbo direct injection). There is new optimism however as newer turbo-charged diesels are quieter, more efficient as well as very powerful. A friend of mine who has driven the Jetta TDI raves about it – “great mpg and power.” For years, all the VW models had the TDI engines, but they had to be refined with lower sulfur allowed in diesel petroleum in this country. With a call to a local VW dealer, I found out that the only diesel they are importing now (“to meet the standards of new Ultralow sulfur diesel in this country”) is the Jetta TDI. He says it is testing at 60 mpg and the warranty will cover up to ten percent Biodiesel (B10).” “Volkswagen is gearing up the Golf TDI Hybrid. It's equipped with a 1.2l turbo 3-cylinder engine & an electric motor. It cranks out 100hp & 235 lb-ft of torque. Matted to a 7-speed DSG it delivered a staggering 71.4 mpg whilst having a CO2 rating of 90g/km. It's comparable to the Prius in size & cost so we will have to wait and see real-world tests but the specs so far are impressive.” Ade on Yahoo automotive tech. blog.
The Fuel – Biodiesel
Many are confused about biofuels. We are told that they can take away from valuable food crops, and lead to more world hunger. If that is true, it does not apply to biodiesel, as it uses only the oil and leaves the nutritious part of plant or animal. Biodiesel can come from either veggie oil or animal fats. And it can be the only recyclable fuel, as this biofuel can be filtered from used cooking veggie oil. It can be blended with petroleum diesel to make a more effective and less polluting fuel. Only 1% biodiesel makes a difference, but the higher percentage the better. The standard definition is "biodiesel is a renewable fuel derived from vegetable oils or animal fats that can be blended with petroleum or used on its own."
Confusion comes from the facts about a different biofuel - ethanol (an alcohol not an oil) that uses a plant feedstock, such as corn, beetroot, sugar beet or sugar cane and then fermenting it. It can be blended with gasoline to make “gasohol.” Reducing the fears of food crops being taken away from the world supply, there is a new technology called “cellulostic ethanol production” which allows the production of ethanol from the leftover straw of the food crop. Brazil is now producing ethanol for over 30% of its fuel production.
Jim, a member of my writing group has this to say about this article: “This article is fueling my interest in getting my hands on a diesel VW. And then my dream gets bigger. What if, I say, what if I had a motor home that ran on veggie oil, heated with veggie oil and ran its generator on veggie oil? Would it be possible to have no energy bills? Is this really the true meaning of Freedom Fuel?
Well, Jim, hypothetically that freedom could be yours if you educate yourself enough about biodiesel fuel. Pure vegetable oil is very expensive for one thing. Another is that cheaper or even free used cooking oil is mostly animal fat, which has a higher viscosity level and even after filtering, can clog up an engine after awhile. You would need to learn how to micro-refine used cooking oil to make it an effective freedom fuel. However, with ingenuity and education, this can be done. I recommend Tickle’s book: From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank The Complete Guide to Making Alternative Fuel out of Vegetable Oil. I have been watching the book on eBay for several weeks and the price will not go down below $20.00, but I am about to order it anyway. This whole subject is vitally important enough!