What is biodiesel?
Biodiesel is a vegetable oil-based fuel that runs in diesel engines - cars, buses, trucks, construction equipment, boats, generators, and oil home heating units. It's usually made from soy or canola oil, and can also be made from recycled fryer oil (yes, from McDonalds or your local Chinese restaurant). You can blend it with regular diesel or run 100% biodiesel. As little as a 2% blend can reduce emissions by 30%.
What are the benefits?
1) National security. Since it's made in America, it reduces our dependence on foreign oil. That's good.
2) National economy. Using biodiesel keeps our fuel buying dollars here in America instead of sending it to foreign countries. This reduces our trade deficit and creates jobs.
3) It's sustainable & non-toxic. Face it, we're going to run out of oil eventually. Biodiesel is 100% renewable... we'll never run out of it. And if it gets into your water supply, there's no problem - it's veggie oil! Heck, you can drink it if you so desire, but it tastes nasty (trust me).
4) Emissions. Biodiesel is nearly carbon-neutral, meaning it contributes almost zero emissions to global warming and contributes practially nothing to acid rain! Biodiesel also dramatically reduces other emissions. I like clean air, how about you? Plus, the exhaust smells like popcorn or french fries!
5) Engine life. Studies have shown it reduces engine wear by as much as one half and increases fuel economy by up to 13%, primarily because it provides excellent lubricity. Even a 20% biodiesel/80% diesel blend will help.
6) Drivability. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't notice an immediate smoothing of the engine with biodiesel. It just runs quieter, and produces less smoke.
Are there any negatives?
There are a couple.
1) Primarily that it's not readily available in much of the nation, YET (click here for a map of locations). Consumption jumped from 500,000 gallons in 2000 to 15 million gallons in 2001, so hopefully availability will change soon. 2) Biodiesel will clean your injectors and fuel lines. If you have an old diesel vehicle, there's a chance that your first tank or two of BD could free up all the accumulated crud and clog your fuel lines. 3) It has a higher gel point. B100 (100% biodiesel) gets slushy little under 32°F. But B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% regular diesel - more commonly available than B100) has a gel point of -15°F. Like regular diesel, the gel point can be lowered further with additives such as kerosene (blended into winter diesel in cold-weather areas). 4) Finally, old vehicles might require upgrades of fuel lines (a cheap, easy upgrade), as BD can eat through certain types of rubber. Almost all new vehicles should have no problem with BD.
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