Posted By RichC on May 4, 2005
I’m always looking to build a better mousetrap … like replacing our petroleum diesel fuel with biodiesel.
With oil prices over $50/barrel, biodiesel is in the news almost everyday. Obviously some big dollars from American soybean growers have boosted the farm lobbies and politicians are finding out that supporting renewable homegrow alternatives to foriegn oil ‘sells.’ That was quite evident in the November presidential campaign where President Bush mention it in many of his stump speechs.
It has been amazingly difficult to make inroads with an alternative that makes so much sense, yet when you talk to the average American about replacing the primarily imported, dirty, stinky, carcinogenic fuels we are now using, they support clean renewables to the tune of 74 percent. Of registered voters, 79 percent favor extending the biodiesel tax incentives. The Chairman of the National Biodiesel Board, Darryl Brinkmann believes that “Americans clearly see the important role renewable fuels can play in reducing our dependence on foreign oil and cleaning up emissions.” Its impressive to see more than 500 major fleets nationwide now use biodiesel commercially, including NASA, Harvard University, the National Park Service, U.S. Postal Service and all four military branches. The U.S. Navy is the world’s largest diesel fuel user and it has recently issued a memorandum establishing as policy that “all U.S. Navy and Marine non-tactical diesel vehicles shall operate on a blend of 20 percent biodiesel fuel no later than June 1.”
The rest of us are left to struggle a bit, as currently there are just over 400 retail filling stations that make various blends of biodiesel publicly available, but more than 1,000 petroleum distributors carry it. Perhaps it is the peoples turn, we biodiesel advocates need to convince retail stations to offer biodiesel and then convince diesel owners to support them?
There are many advantages of adopting biodiesel, ethanol and blends to our current fuels. Both biofuels provide cleaner emissions, an economic boost to our US economy and biodiesel due to its lubricity has shown to extend engine maintenance cycles and reduced wear. (something ULSD will be challenged to match) The 1998 U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture full lifecycle emissions study, which found that for every unit of fossil energy needed to make biodiesel, 3.2 units of energy are gained. In contrast, petroleum-diesel production requires a net loss of 1.2 units of fossil fuels to produce 1 unit of energy.
Beyond socio-economic, environmental and health benefits, biodiesel (and ethanol) eases U.S. withdrawal pains as the nation will eventually be forced to wean itself from diminishing, costly imported oil. The United States consumes approximately 20 million barrels of oil a day, more than half of which is imported. Even under the most aggressive, environmentally controversial development scenarios, the U.S. Department of Energy predicts that by 2025 we will import 70 percent of our petroleum. Despite ongoing turmoil throughout the Middle East, the U.S. remains dangerously dependent on foreign oil.
Although it is contraversial, the Department of Energy estimates that the military cost of securing foreign oil was $57 billion annually and foreign tax credits accounted for another $4 billion annually. There is also environmental impact of extracting and transporting oil; these costs are estimated at $45 per barrel and for every billion dollars spent on foreign oil, America has lost 10,000 to 25,000 jobs.
Biodiesel can be manufactured using existing industrial production capacity with conventional equipment, thus it provides an opportunity to immediately address U.S. energy security issues. Requiring 4 percent biofuels use would displace nearly 2.9 billion barrels of crude oil by 2016, rendering unnecessary, among other things, industrial development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s unique, biologically rich coastal plain.
BTW it was recently announced, for those of you who enjoy Indy car racing, the IRL- home of the Indianapolis 500 – it will power its racecars with ethanol beginning in the 2006 season. Keep the support and publicity going for biofuels.
I just realized that this entry might not be in a useful form; I’ve pretty much jumped from one tidbit to another as I was recalling articles that I’ve recently read. Maybe that’s the way a blog should read???