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All About Biodiesel

Biodiesel is the newest craze in the automotive industry. The term, biodiesel, refers to vehicles that can operate off of a vegetable oil (or similar) fat diesel. Biodiesel can be made out of typical household products by combining lipids with alcohol. In order to use biodiesel the vehicle must be a "converted" diesel engine - putting biodiesel in a regular engine is asking for trouble. Biodiesel was said to have originated in 1853, however; Europe began production of biodiesel in 1990. The United States has been in the biodiesel market for many years, however; in 2005 Minnesota began requiring that 2 percent of its diesel be made out of biodiesel.

What Is Biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a form of diesel that contains a type of lipid (vegetable oil is most popular) combined with an alcohol. Most biodiesel available in the United States is a blend of petroleum diesel and biodiesel. Users prefer biodiesel because it is biodegradable, sulfur free, and better for the environment. Biodiesel is not the same as raw vegetable oil and must meet the ASTM D6751 specification.

How Is Biodiesel Made?

Generally biodiesel consists of a fatty liquid, such as vegetable oil, and is combined with alcohol to create a reaction that produces energy. By mixing the oil with the alcohol, the oil begins to break down and drops the glycerin molecules. Once the liquid is drained and there is no more glycerin, it is biodiesel. Scientifically, biodiesel is referred to as fatty acid methyl ester. Biodiesel has profound environmental impacts and is better for engines.

Biodiesel Fuel Market

While many people know what biodiesel is, the "green" fuel has yet to gain the attention of the entire country. Biodiesel remains largely untapped in several regions of the United States. Countries such as Australia have began to use biodiesel, however; the concept is foreign to many people. As more automotive manufacturers begin to produce biodiesel engines the demand will likely increase. Currently it is difficult to find a biodiesel gas station - most people have to "fuel up" at home.

Benefits of Biodiesel

There are a variety of benefits from using biodiesel, including environmental, energy, economic, EP act, and engine quality benefits only seen by using the fuel. The Clean Air Act helped "fuel" the development of biodiesel and allocated the necessary funding to execute the research and development. Biodiesel emits over two-thirds less carbon dioxide than their petroleum counterparts. Additionally, scientists proved that biodiesel has a positive energy balance. Economically, biodiesel creates over 50,000 jobs annually and adds $4 billion to the GDP. Over 100 million gallons are produced each year, saving Americans millions of dollars.

Biodiesel Research and Development

Since biodiesel is such an innovative form of technology, colleges and universities continue to study the science behind the vegetable oil mixture. The government allocated several billion dollars to the research and development of biofuels, which allows companies and universities to team up in the effort of finding a reliable source of energy.

Biodiesel Infrastructure Resources

Due to the Clean Air Act and several other initiatives by the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA), biodiesel is becoming an essential part of the infrastructure of states, cities, and counties. Many regions utilize biodiesel based vehicles that utilize a large amount of energy. For example, garbage trucks, mail carrier vehicles, and other municipal vehicles are filled up with biofuels each day.

Biodiesel Incentives and Laws

Biodiesel laws and regulations vary by state, however; there are a variety of programs on the federal level that promote renewable energy, such as biodiesel. The Air Pollution Control Program, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program, Clean School Bus USA, Clean Ports USA, Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Grant, Clean Fuels Grant Program, State Energy Program (SEP) Funding, Clean Cities, SmartWay Transport Partnership, Vehicle Incremental Cost Allocation, Vehicle Acquisition and Fuel Use Requirements for State and Alternative Fuel Provider Fleets, Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit, Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 are among the various federal programs.

Biodiesel Publications

For additional resources about biodiesel visit the following Web sites for a list of publications available for viewing. Most documents will require that the Adobe Acrobat Reader be installed.


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