Biodiesel is the name
for a variety of ester-based oxygenated fuels made from Hemp oil, other
vegetable oils or animal fats. The concept of using vegetable oil as an
engine fuel dates back to 1895 when Dr. Rudolf Diesel developed the first
diesel engine to run on vegetable oil. Diesel demonstrated his engine at the
World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 using peanut oil as fuel.
Properties of Biodiesel:
Today's diesel engines require a
clean-burning, stable fuel that performs well under a variety of operating
conditions. Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that can be used directly
in any existing, unmodified diesel engine. Because it has similar properties
to petroleum diesel fuel, biodiesel can be blended in any ratio with
petroleum diesel fuel. Many federal and state fleet vehicles are already
using biodiesel blends in their existing diesel engines.
The low emissions of biodiesel make it
an ideal fuel for use in marine areas, national parks and forests, and
heavily polluted cities. Biodiesel has many advantages as a transport fuel.
For example, biodiesel can be produced from domestically grown oilseed
plants such as Hemp. Producing biodiesel from Hemp and other domestic crops
reduces the United States' dependence on foreign petroleum, increases
agricultural revenue, and creates jobs.
Advantages of Biodiesel:
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel
in the US to complete EPA Tier I Health Effects Testing under section 211(b)
of the Clean Air Act, which provide the most thorough inventory of
environmental and human health effects attributes that current technology
Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel
that runs in any conventional, unmodified diesel engine. It can be stored
anywhere that petroleum diesel fuel is stored.
Biodiesel can be used alone or mixed in
any ratio with petroleum diesel fuel. The most common blend is a mix of 20%
biodiesel with 80% petroleum diesel, or "B20."
The lifecycle production and use of
biodiesel produces approximately 80% less carbon dioxide emissions, and
almost 100% less sulfur dioxide. Combustion of biodiesel alone provides over
a 90% reduction in total unburned hydrocarbons, and a 75-90% reduction in
aromatic hydrocarbons. Biodiesel further provides significant reductions in
particulates and carbon monoxide than petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel
provides a slight increase or decrease in nitrogen oxides depending on
engine family and testing procedures. Based on Ames Mutagenicity tests,
biodiesel provides a 90% reduction in cancer risks.
Biodiesel is 11% oxygen by weight and
contains no sulfur. The use of biodiesel can extend the life of diesel
engines because it is more lubricating than petroleum diesel fuel, while
fuel consumption, auto ignition, power output, and engine torque are
relatively unaffected by biodiesel.
Biodiesel is safe to handle and
transport because it is as biodegradable as sugar, 10 times less toxic than
table salt, and has a high flashpoint of about 300 F compared to petroleum
diesel fuel, which has a flash point of 125 F.
Biodiesel can be made from domestically
produced, renewable oilseed crops such as Hemp.
Biodiesel is a proven fuel with over 30
million successful US road miles, and over 20 years of use in Europe.
When burned in a diesel engine,
biodiesel replaces the exhaust odor of petroleum diesel with the pleasant
smell of Hemp, popcorn or french fries.
The Congressional Budget Office,
Department of Defense, US Department of Agriculture, and others have
determined that biodiesel is the low cost alternative fuel option for fleets
to meet requirements of the Energy Policy Act.
An important factor that is not usually
considered when calculating the costs and benefits of industrial feedstock
materials is the macroeconomic effect associated with domestically produced,
renewable energy sources. Economic benefits of a biodiesel industry in the
US would include value added to the feedstock (oilseeds or animal fats), an
increased number of manufacturing jobs, an increased tax base from plant
operations and income taxes, investments in plant and equipment, improvement
of our trade balance, and reductions in health care costs due to improved
air quality and greenhouse gas mitigation.
Biodiesel has positive impacts on the
state economy. An Iowa State University study concluded that three economic
benefits would accrue to state from biodiesel. First, biodiesel expands
demand for soybean oil, causing processors to pay more for soybeans, In
addition, soybean farmers near the biodiesel plant would receive slightly
higher prices for soybeans; and third, the presence of a facility that
creates energy from soybeans would add value to the state's industrial and
Dr. Hayes concluded that, "If the state
of Iowa were to mandate the use of a 20 % biodiesel blend in its state
vehicle fleet where feasible, the total additional cost of this policy would
range from $400,000 to $500,000. If it could be shown that this policy would
result in a new five million gallon biodiesel plant in the state, then the
policy would create more new tax revenues than it would cost and would
clearly be in the best interest of the state."
Biodiesel has positive implications for
production agriculture. A 1996 economic study published by the USDA Office
of Energy predicted that a modest, sustained annual market for biodiesel of
100 million gallons in the US would contribute approximately seven cents to
the price of each bushel of soybeans produced in the US. Based on last years
harvested crop, the increase could have resulted in more than $168 million
directly to the use of biodiesel.
Biodiesel has a positive impact on the
world balance of trade. A 1998 biodiesel lifecycle study jointly sponsored
by the US Department of Energy and the European Department of Agriculture
concluded that increased use of biodiesel and biodiesel blended fuels such
as B20 would substantially benefit the world economy. The report concluded
that national spending to import petroleum sends significant amounts of
dollars out of our domestic economy every year.
Biodiesel offers the potential to shift
this spending from foreign imports to domestically produced energy. The
report notes: "With its ability to be used directly in existing diesel
engines, biodiesel offers the immediate potential to reduce our demand for
petroleum in the transportation sector."
Biodiesel contributes jobs to the local
economy. Economic work conducted at the University of Missouri estimated the
benefits of producing biodiesel in a metropolitan region. This study
concluded that 100 million gallons of biodiesel production could generate an
estimated $8.34 million increase in personal income and over 6,000
additional temporary or permanent jobs for the metropolitan region.