Feb 01

Supporting Biodiesel (Something I Should Have Been Doing Long Ago)

I used to work for BMW and did quite a bit of reading on biodiesel. After researching, it is definitely something we need to support. Diesel technology is used all over the world and I am clueless as to why we don’t see more diesel vehicles on the road in the U.S. It’s a very simple, sustainable technology. Biodiesel blends will help clean the air, create jobs, and can also get you 800 miles to one tank of gas. How crazy is that?

I read in the DieselGreen Fuels blog that biodiesel subsidies will run out in 2009 unless they are renewed. Investments in alternative fuel sources are directly correlated with government subsidies and regulation. With investment, biodiesel will only get more efficient and affordable, and the people of Texas have a vested interest in its survival. I wrote this letter to John Cornyn’s staff today:

To John Cornyn and his staff,

I am a writer for the Science Channel, and I am asking that Senator Cornyn support biodiesel subsidies for economic stimulus.

Here are some of many reasons why this is good for Texas and for our nation:

1.) Biodiesel actually generates more jobs than traditional gasoline. Gasoline merely requires someone to get the oil out of the ground, someone to transport it, and someone to refine it and get it to stations. It is not something that is produced. The lack of jobs it creates explains why fuel rich nations such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia have so much money, but an inequity of wealth.

Biodiesel is still in its infancy, and creating the most efficient biodiesel fuel will generate jobs in farming and science sectors. These are jobs that should be in Texas.

2.) Biodiesel is a cleaner burning fuel than traditional diesel as it does not contribute as much nitrogen dioxide to the atmosphere. Every transport truck uses diesel. Traditional diesel emits nitrogen dioxide into the air, causing smog and respiratory problems. Using biodiesel would reduce cases of cancer and asthma and would improve our quality of life.

This may go without saying, but sick people don’t work.

3.) Unlike electric cars, diesel engines have been around for over a century and are sustainable. Some of the first engines ran on peanut oil. The technology is very simple–diesel fuel generates a large explosion which generates a lot of torque. The car or truck is merely coasting off of this large generation of torque. This explains why they are much more fuel efficient than traditional gasoline engines. To demonstrate the efficiency of these engines, Jeremy Clarkson of the world famous auto show “Top Gear” drove an Audi A8 diesel, a large car, from London to Edinburgh and back on one tank of gas. This is over 800 miles.

When people aren’t spending money on gas, they are spending it on other goods and services. Exxon made record profits yet again this quarter, and it’s time we make sure the American public has a little extra money of their own too.

4.) Biodiesel is sustainable because we don’t have to worry about the repercussions of using it. Where will we put electric vehicle batteries? How much will it cost to service these vehicles? Diesel vehicles are incredibly reliable because the technology is simple and has been used for decades. Diesel vehicles are expensive only because the people who drive them love them so much and are willing to pay the difference. I used to work for BMW, and we never had a lack of buyers for any diesel vehicle we received on trade.

From Europe to South America, diesel is used all over the world. I have no clue on Earth why Americans know so little about its virtues. As we speak, there are biodiesel plants in North Carolina exporting biodiesel to Germany. This is ridiculous. Biodiesel is a step towards energy independence and a cleaner America. Using it would mean less scuffles with OPEC and volitile Middle Eastern nations. It would generate domestic jobs and keep our air clean. I implore you for the protection of our nation, protect and increase biodiesel subsidies.

I encourage you to read facts about biodiesel. Here are some starting points:
http://dieselgreenfuels.com/blog/
http://www.biofuels.coop/category/energy/
http://auto.howstuffworks.com/biodiesel.htm
http://www.biodiesel.com/index.php/biodiesel/frequently_asked_questions_about_biodiesel/
http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ageng/machine/ae1240w.htm

If you are convinced that biodiesel is a good thing for our nation, consider writing John Cornyn so that he will include this funding in this bill.

  • http://green-jeanne.blogspot.com/ JEANNE

    Great post. We need a cleaner, more sustainable fuel than gasoline, and biodiesel may just be the answer.

    Thanks for bringing this issue to light. I think many people feel that there’s not much they can do, but if every one of us spoke out just once, change might happen faster.

    JEANNEs last blog post..Recycling Plastic Bags

  • http://none Anon

    Not to be a debbie downer, but no one seems to say the side effects of biomass production in other parts of the world. Such as destroying forests to plant and harvest for palm oils. What about the Burmese orangutans who suffer from this market and could face extinction?

    I’m all for alternative fuels, and every little bit helps I guess, but biodiesel will never be the answer because right now it is not efficient, and there is just not enough farmland to support a full independence from fossil fuels.

    Just my two cents but great post!

  • http://michellesblog.net Michelle

    Hi “Anon”,

    I would be as pessimistic as you, but I also appreciate what biodiesel can be made of. Currently Willie Nelson’s bus runs on Mexican food grease. It can be made from algae or switch grass, which can be literally grown in sheets. It’s just energy. It’s in everything.

    Without subsidies, it will be very difficult to understand the most efficient ways of creating diesel. I do not believe that there is an easy way to convert every car tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean we should attempt to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to biodiesel.

  • Veronica Barrio

    The two main arguments I have heard against the use of biofuels are:

    1. They compete for land use with crops – Which with a looming Global Food Crisis it doesn’t make sense to restrict farmable land.

    2. It still contributes to emisions and contributes to global warming.

    Personally (with the technology that currently exists) I think that harvested wind and solar energy turned into electricity is the way to power cars in the near future.

  • http://michellesblog.net Michelle

    Veronica,

    Willie Nelson makes biodiesel out of Mexican food grease. It can also be made of algae or sheet grass, which grows in rows in laboratories. How does this compete with our food supply?

    Also, the emissions from biodiesel pale in comparison to traditional diesel or regular gasoline.

    Solar and wind energy is incredibly expensive and currently inefficient. Unlike diesel, it would require huge subsidies to get off the ground. Diesel is a technology that is a step above a lawn mower. It is already being used in dozens of countries around the world and has been for over a century. There seems to be much misinformation about it among the traditional press.

  • David

    A small point about biodiesel.

    Done right, biodiesel is the only alternative that actually removes CO2 from the atmosphere. The plant (algae) removes CO2 from the atmosphere and converts it into oil and plant matter. Only the oil is used in biodiesel.

    A number of universities are planning algae-based sites in the desert Southwest. Because the water they use is necessarily sterile, the algae farmers use little of that. In addition, they plan to use polluted runoff from farms (lots of nitrogen).

    Biodiesel can be added directly to existing diesel, so the delivery mechanism is already in place.

    Finally, biodiesel produces little soot, but can be made to produce more. Power-generating plants could produce and capture a great deal of soot from the generating process (and it could be put into our tires and paved into our roads. That soot represents a lot of CO2 removed from the air.

    I am way pro-biodiesel.

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