The Biodiesel Bug: Running on Soybean Oil

A bright-green Volkswagen Beetle whizzed by quietly in the morning traffic. Another car with those over-sized advertising decals on it that are becoming more common, this one reading “POWERED BY 100% BIODIESEL FUEL”.

With the summer vacation driving season approaching, the cost of gasoline and diesel rising with temperatures across America, cleaner-burning diesel fuel made from canola, caster, olive, peanut, safflower and sunflower oils that are grown and processed in the United States can be used by modern diesel cars and trucks instead of using fuel made from imported petroleum.

Biodiesel is free of sulfur (which must be removed from petroleum-based fuels during the refining process.) Biodiesel reduces particulate emmissions, is non-toxic and bio-degradeble in shorter period of time than it’s counterparts. The farm-grown fuel works in the engine with the same effiency as regular diesel, giving greater fuel economy than that of gasoline powered vehicles. It also has a positive energy balance, creating three units of energy for every unit required to make it. Refining petroleum also uses energy, in the process creating air polluting emmissions that add to the totals that are measured by the Environmental Protection Agency that are paid for by drivers in the form of “Smog Check” testing requirements when their vehicle registrations come up for renewal.

There is 4.5 billion gallons of used vegetable oil produced by food preparation in the United States that can also be filtered and used for fueling vehicles as well as the soybean oil grown specifically for energy purposes. Farmers planted 76 million acres in 2004 creating 89 million tons of oilseed. There are alot more acres available for planting soybeans.

Doesn’t the oil extraction process create air polluting chemicals as a byproduct? Biodiesel production equipment designed and manufactured by the Crown Iron Works Company in Roseville Minnesota, the top soybean producing state, recovers excess methanol alcohol and is reused in the process. As soybean acreage for fuel production is increased so will the manufacturing of processing equipment grow, reviving the Midwestern states economies.

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