Growing A New Energy Economy 
by Greg Pahl
Chelsea Green, 2005 

The potential of biodiesel to replace petroleum-based diesel (petrodiesel) fuel is not new. Farmers and alternative fuels advocates have been experimenting with and using vegetable oils to operate tractors, trucks, generators and all sorts of other engines for decades. 

"Other renewable energy strategies such as solar, wind, ethanol, and fuel cells have received most of the media attention," author Greg Pahl points out. "Many people still have only a vague idea of what biodiesel is, and fewer still understand that it can be used for more than fueling diesel-powered cars or pickup trucks."

Most folks, for instance, associate "diesel" with petroleum and fossil fuels. Pure biodiesel has either; it is entirely made up of plant-based oils or animal fats.

In Europe, Pahl reports, biodiesel has been manufactured on an industrial scale since 1992 and with strong government support from the European Union it has replaced 2  percent of the petrodiesel use in member countries. The goal there is to increase that percentage to 5.75 by 2010 in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil and to cut back on greenhouse emissions.

Here in the U.S., where the petroleum industry exerts more control, there has been much less investment in and promotion of biodiesel? until recently. errorism, Middle East conflicts, global warming, rising petroleum prices and the steady depletion of  proven reserves has intensified interest in alternatives. And of all the fuel alternatives  currently available, according to Pahl's assessment, biodiesel offers the most feasible,  cost-effective and beneficial option for the near future.

"Biodiesel produces lower quantities of cancer-causing particulate emissions, is more  biodegradable than sugar, and is less toxic than table salt," Pahl points out. "And  because it can be produced from domestic feedstocks, biodiesel reduces the need for  foreign imports of oil, while simultaneously boosting the local economy. No wonder  there is so much enthusiasm, especially in the agricultural community, about biodiesel;  farmers can literally grow their own fuel."

Pahl's book recounts the story of Rudolph Diesel's late 19th century invention of an engine that could run almost anywhere using a wide range of local fuels. And he reports on the research of University of Idaho professor Charles Peterson who, nearly  a century later, perfected the process of transesterification that produces biodiesel fuel  from alcohol and vegetable oils or animal fats.

 As detailed in this book, biodiesel capable of fueling a modern diesel engine can be  produced by the gallon at home or on an industrial scale in a plant located almost anywhere. Feedstocks for the fuel range from oilseed plants, mustard seed, soybeans and corn to used cooking oil, animal fats and even algae.

If all these feedstocks are exploited and America's fallow fields are put to work  producing oilseed, biodiesel may eventually provide 10 to 20 percent of the current diesel fuel used in this country. That's not enough to meet current and future energy needs, the experts quoted in this book agree, but it could help ease the transition away from our heavy reliance on fossil fuels.

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There is one liquid fuel that is both renewable and can be used in a wide range of vehicles without any modifications to the engines. That fuel is biodiesel. 


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