Biodiesel

Oil and its alternatives, such as biodiesel, are continuously in the news.  When oil prices go up, it seems that everyone is affected.  Many countries’ economies depend on oil.  And this is one reason why people are looking for a cleaner and cheaper alternatives to our conventional fossil fuels.

One of these alternative forms of energy is biodiesel.

What is Biodiesel?

Technically speaking, biodiesel is a biodegradable and renewable diesel fuel, which is made from plant oils or from animal fats.  Which material is used  depends on which production method is used, as well as on which type of fuel is to be made.  This type of fuel consists of a form of natural hydrocarbon which contains little sulfur content, thus helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from diesel engines.

Biodiesel can be used in a pure form, or can be blended with other petroleum products.  It is safe for use even on unmodified diesel engines.

Blends of biodiesel are known with the designation Bxx, where xx is the percentage of biodiesel in the mix.  In pure form, it would be referred to as B100.  Because it comes from animals and plants, its sources can be recycled or farmed.  It also has no known harmful side effects.

More people using biodiesel means cleaner air.  Additionally, it helps lubricate the engine, therefore decreasing wear and tear.  Biodiesel creates fewer emissions, is biodegradable, and is a renewable form of energy as well.

One downside of this type of fuel is that its use can lead to the degradation of a vehicle’s natural rubber gaskets.  This is the case for vehicles made before 1992.  Their hoses do tend to deteriorate over time, and some have since been replaced by FKM (a material that doesn’t react with biodiesel).  It is common for fuel filters to become clogged after the transition has been made.  Therefore, it’s recommended that these parts be replaced.

Biodiesel in Everyday Lives

Biodiesel has been accepted for use worldwide.  Most fuel stations around the globe have biodiesel pumps ready for their consumers.  Diesel engines can use biodiesel without any changes being made in the engine.

There is even a train which runs on 20% biodiesel.

Controversy

The public acceptance of biodiesel has led to an increase in its production.  Because of this, issues have also been raised in regards to food or feed being used to create fuel.  There are reports of food shortages in some regions of the world, as a result of food sources being diverted and used for  the production of biodiesel.

While biodiesel could be a good alternative energy solution, I think we can all agree that its use should definitely not cause anyone to go hungry.  Any long-term strategy which implements biodiesel as an alternative energy source should also include measures to ensure that necessary food supplies are not diminished or made less accessible as a result.

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2 Responses to “Biodiesel”

  1. Mark October 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    I think Bio-diesel is OK but its not quite taken off, I think we need a sloution to the oil prices, but this is not ideal.
    Mark

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