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How Does Biodiesel Affect U.S Energy Consumption?

Renewable Energy Access – May 8, 2007

There are a lot of good reasons to want to find alternative sources of liquid fuel.  I know that this site has a wide range of believers regarding global warming but it is likely that all can agree that the United States needs more sources of liquid fuel than our current supply that comes from nations that don’t like us but tend to like our money.

One of the more popular alternative sources of liquid fuel is bio-diesel. So the obvious question must be asked, what are the sources of bio-diesel and would it bankrupt us to get a greater percentage of our fuel from that source.  This article goes a long way to discussing that issue and it is worth your effort to click through (check out the bottom of this post).  The original article also discusses some changes to our lifestyle that could make an impact but I will leave that to your own curiosity and reading.

I wish I could say biodiesel, a renewable alternative to diesel fuel, is produced in such a way that it could safeguard our food supply from the effects of declining oil reserves and permanently higher fuel prices. Unfortunately, biodiesel is not a silver bullet, able to eliminate American agriculture’s dependence on fossil fuels. But biodiesel, produced sustainably and reducing our petroleum demand, can make the transition to a new energy economy less painful.

The fuels and oils required to operate equipment and machinery cost farmers $11.2 billion, and included the cost of about 3.5 billion gallons of diesel fuel used to plant, tend, and harvest our crops and raise our livestock.

In America, a common way to produce biodiesel is from virgin soybean oil. The oil is harvested from the plant and sold on the commodities market. A biodiesel producer purchases the oil and ships it to a biodiesel refinery, where the process of making biodiesel, a transesterification reaction, takes place. The large triglyceride molecules of vegetable oil are broken into the smaller and less viscous, long chain mono alkyl esters of biodiesel. The reaction requires a short chain alcohol (usually methanol) and a catalyst (usually sodium or potassium hydroxide) (3). Glycerin, a sugar, is also produced in the reaction and is often sold to industry for use in soap, cosmetics, and many other applications.

1.7 billion gallons of biodiesel would cover almost half of the 3.5 billion gallons of diesel we use on farms, but biodiesel is not just sold to farmers and 1.7 billion gallons is more of a drop in the bucket when it comes to the annual 60 billion gallons of diesel fuel consumed in America.

The original article can be found here.

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2 Responses to “How Does Biodiesel Affect U.S Energy Consumption?”

  1. Biodiesel can be a “silver bullet” if algae oil is used as a feedstock. Algae can produce 15,000 gallons of oil per acre annually. Not only does it clean 40% of the CO2 out of the air, but it grows best in areas of the country unsuitable for almost anything else, such as the desert. The Sonora Desert, for example, is 120,000 square miles, it would only take 15,000 sq.m. of algae ponds to power every vehicle in the country today.

  2. we should patronize the use of Biodiesel because it is a renewable source and fossil fuels would soon be depleted. `