Biodiesel: An Old Idea Becomes New Again

Since the 1970s, diesel has been the fuel for the farm – diesel for tractors, farm trucks and harvesting equipment. Diesel ran everything but the livestock.

But with record high oil prices in the states, the focus is now on alternative energy sources. For farmers, a common alternative is biodiesel, an eco-friendly diesel fuel derived from vegetable oils.

“When oil prices go up, so does the demand for alternatives such as biodiesel,” said Lee Chrestman, owner of H.L.C. Farms.

This new alternative oil is not actually new at all. More than a century ago, the first diesel engines were introduced at the 1900 World’s Fair by Rudolf Diesel. His “new engines” were powered by peanut oil, the original biodiesel.

The first diesel engines were fueled solely on vegetable oils and got better fuel mileage than the traditional combustion engines and soon became the norm. However, in the 1920s, when oil companies took over the fuel market with their cheap, low-grade petroleum diesel, engine manufacturers modified the engines to run on their new fuel.

Now, a century later, as environmental concerns, conflicts in the Middle East and deteriorating sources of fossil fuels, it is back to the future, a return to the origins of the diesel engine, where an old idea becomes new again.

And with the reduced emissions from biodiesel’s blend, the statistics show this alternative fuel is good crop for everyone.

Biodiesel is the first and only alternative fuel to have a complete evaluation of emissions results and potential health effects submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Section 211(b) of the Clean Air Act of 1990.

According to the National Biodiesel Board report, biodiesel emissions contain 67 percent fewer ozone-depleting hydrocarbons than conventional diesel. Biodiesel emissions also contain about half the particulate matter, and they are practically void of sulfur sulfates, a major contributor to acid rain. Biodiesel emissions show 75 to 85 percent reduction in cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and 48 percent less carbon monoxide.

In sum, biodiesel is biodegradable, nontoxic and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics. And Mother Nature is not the only one reaping the benefits.

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