Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Biodiesel-fuel for the 21st Century

In this new age where fuel is the most precious commodity available, it is time that mankind turned to a more efficient, safer, cleaner, renewable fuel for use in our massively transportation dependent society. The answer to a century of wars over oil and the horrendous aftermath thereof are simply, in one word - biodiesel. Biodiesel has been around for over a century, but only recently has the world awakened to a need for fuels at any cost that will not destroy our already fragile ecosystem, and you will soon know why the whole world should be excited.

Biodiesel was first synthesized back in 1893 before the first diesel engine was even developed. Biodiesel is essentially oil of any type-be it animal fat or vegetable oil that has been reacted with an alcohol in a process called transesterification. The chemical name of the results of this reaction is mono-alkyl ester or biodiesel, and glycerol-common glycerin. Biodiesel can be used as an alternative to petrodiesel in more applications than you may think.

Biodiesel has some very interesting properties. While not as energy dense as common petroleum diesel, it is a much cleaner fuel with lower sulfur, and it burns cleaner leaving the atmosphere less harmed. Biodiesel even cleans engines which have been run on petroleum diesel from the inside, dissolving deposits of gunk and particulates that originated in typical petroleum fuel. Biodiesel's main lure is the fact that in theory we could supply the world’s energy needs from one safe clean alternative fuel that is 100% renewable.

As for applications, biodiesel can be utilized in most locomotives that you are already aware of, with little or no changes to the engine. This means that if you have a vehicle that runs presently on diesel-be it a sport utility vehicle, station wagon, car, or tractor trailer truck-it can run on biodiesel with only one step. That step is filling the tank! This is the primary reason why biodiesel could revolutionize the fuel industry. With biodiesel, there is no need to upgrade our present fleets of trucks, cars, trains, vans, and boats that run on diesel into prohibitively expensive solar powered vehicles; we can simply pull them into a gas station that offers biodiesel and fuel up. It is true that any engine built for diesel can run on biodiesel, the only issue that could come up is with engines that were built before 1992. Many of these engines have rubber parts that would slowly be dissolved by biodiesel. But the modifications required can be done in a few minutes by any mechanic. Also, other than transportation most diesel generators as well as heaters can be run on biodiesel without modifications. This means that we can generate electricity using this exciting new renewable fuel. There was even a test flight in early 2008 of a jumbo jet run only on biodiesel. The potential of biodiesel to revolutionize our energy industry is enormous, not to mention the economic opportunities for farming nations that depend on the agricultural industry to survive. Many of these nations have begun to plant many acres of oil rich crops that are then sold to make biodiesel all over the world. The real opportunity for biodiesel to save our energy dependent society lies in algae. Algae has proven to be capable of a higher yield per acre of biodiesel convertible oil than any other plant. With time and effective engineering of an efficient algae farming method, we will be able to utilize the solar energy more efficiently than ever, and we will easily be able to answer the worlds energy needs with biodiesel.

You know a bit more than you did about biodiesel. Biodiesel may not be the holy grail of energy sources, but it comes pretty close in these times of oil wars and a rapidly depleted ozone layer. Perhaps you should look into biodiesel as your personal alternative fuel today. The more informed we are as a society, the brighter the future may be for our children. Biodiesel is not the fuel of tomorrow, I dare to say it is the fuel of today. Cleaner, renewable, convenient, and available; biodiesel may be a turning point in the world's energy resources.

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