Sometimes folks ask a simple question: "What is biodiesel?". Here's a short explanation:
Biodiesel is a vegetable oil-based fuel that runs in unmodified
diesel engines - cars, buses, trucks, construction equipment, boats,
generators, and oil home heating units. Biodiesel is usually made from
soy or canola oil, and can also be made from recycled fryer oil (yes,
from McDonalds or your local Chinese restaurant) or any other vegetable oil or animal tallow.
You can blend biodiesel with regular diesel
or run 100% biodiesel. You can blend your percentages of
biodiesel-to-diesel fuel at any ratio, at any time. This means you can
be running b100 (100% biodiesel), get down to a quarter tank and add
regular petroluem diesel and essentially be running b25 (25%
biodiesel), then get down to near empty and add straight petroleum,
straight biodiesel, or any percentage in between.
What are the benefits?
1) National security. Since biodiesel is made domestically, biodiesel reduces our dependence on foreign oil. That's good.
2) National economy. Using biodiesel keeps our fuel buying
dollars at home instead of sending it to foreign countries. This
reduces our trade deficit and creates jobs.
3) It's sustainable & non-toxic. Face it, we're going to run out of oil eventually.
Biodiesel is 100% renewable... we'll never run out of biodiesel. And if
biodiesel gets into your water supply, there's no problem - it's just
modified veggie oil! Heck, you can drink biodiesel if you so desire,
but it tastes nasty (trust us).
4) Emissions. Biodiesel is nearly carbon-neutral, meaning it contributes almost zero emissions to global warming!
Biodiesel also dramatically reduces other emissions fairly
dramatically. We like clean air, how about you? Plus, the exhaust
smells like popcorn or french fries!
5) Engine life. Studies have shown biodiesel reduces engine
wear by as much as one half, primarily because biodiesel provides
excellent lubricity. Even a 2% biodiesel/98% diesel blend will help.
6) Drivability. We have yet to meet anyone who doesn't notice
an immediate smoothing of the engine with biodiesel. Biodiesel just
runs quieter, and produces less smoke.
Are there any negatives?
Of course. There is no perfect fuel.
1) Primarily that biodiesel is not readily available in much of the nation, YET (click here for a map of locations),
although availability has jumped considerably in the last five years.
Commercial consumption of biodiesel jumped from 500,000 gallons in 2000
to 15 million gallons in 2001 to 75 million gallons in 2006. And there's no measure how much home-produced biodiesel there is.
2) 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.
3) Biodiesel 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
4) Old vehicles (older than mid-90s) might require upgrades
of fuel lines (a cheap, easy upgrade), as biodiesel can eat through
certain types of rubber. Almost all new vehicles should have no problem
5) 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.
(This is from an original blog post by Natescape)