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A to Z about Biodiesel

Updated on September 10, 2008

These days there are talks about Biodiesel and Biofuels everywhere and many wonder what actually Biodiesel is. This article answers some of the Basics about one of the energy alternative of the future.

What is biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a cleaner-burning diesel fuel, made from 100% natural, 100% renewable vegetable sources. Here are just a few of the vegetable oils that can be used to make biodiesel - rapeseed, palm tree, olive, peanut, soy bean, safflower, sunflower, castor, etc.

Why biodiesel?

Fossil fuel is the primary cause of pollution in the world. Biodiesel offers those who want a clean environment the option to make a significant beneficial impact by using a renewable fuel. Sustainability? Or business (pollution) as usual? Biodiesel dramatically reduces particulate matter emissions and otherfederally targeted emissions while helping to stabilize greenhouse gases. Biodiesel is also non-toxic, biodegradable and free of sulfur.

Is it approved for use?

Biodiesel is registered as a fuel and fuel additive with the Environmental Protection Agency and meets clean diesel standards established by the California Air Resources Board.

What are the benefits?

While its emissions are radically lower, biodiesel functions in the engine the same as petroleum diesel. Biodiesel can be substituted for diesel with essentially no engine modifications, and maintains the payload capacity and range of diesel. On Maui most biodiesel is made from used cooking oil collected from restaurants, making it a mostly recycled fuel, and keeping it out of the landfill.

Is the use of biodiesel covered under engine warranties?

Manufacturer warranties cover defects in material and workmanship, and those warranties extend to engines burning biodiesel. These warranties do not cover engine problems related to fuel of any kind. Tests and demonstrations, however, have shown that biodiesel is no different from petroleum diesel in terms of engine performance and wear.

How much does biodiesel cost?

On Maui, as of July 12, 2008, it costs $3.99 for your road vehicle, this is one of the lowest prices for biodiesel in the world.

Is biodiesel cost effective?

YES!! A gas car that gets 25 miles per gallon (above the average for a typical gas car) costs 18.4 cents per mile to drive at $4.64/gallon (lowest current cost of regular unleaded gasoline on Maui - July 2008), a diesel car that gets 40 miles per gallon (typical for a diesel) costs 10 cents per mile to drive, at $3.99/gallon (cost of biodiesel at Pacific Biodiesel, all tax included, July 2008). Diesel engines are 30%-40% more efficient than gas motors, so you will almost certainly save money on transportation if you switch from a gas vehicle to a biodiesel vehicle.

Do I need special storage facilities?

Biodiesel can be stored wherever petroleum diesel is stored, except in concrete-lined tanks. Biodiesel may result in some deterioration of rubber or polyurethane foam materials.

Who is using biodiesel?

Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine. Here are some Maui biodiesel pioneers: Pacific Biodiesel 1 biodiesel delivery truck; Bio-Beetle Eco Rental Cars, 16 Volkswagen's & one Jeep Liberty; Paul Brandt, 1981 Volkswagon truck; Woody Harrelson, 2000 Volkswagon Beetle TDI; Maui County, B20 in most County diesel vehicles; Willie and Annie Nelson, 2003 Volkswagen Jetta and a 2005 Mercedes; Pukalani golf course, in a well pump; Allen Adkins, home generator; Aloha Surgical, generator; ATT Wireless, generator; Pacific Whale Foundation, 2 boats; Carol Best, home generator; 2nd Circuit Court, generator; Hanalani Farms, farm equipment; Grand Wailea, landscape equipment; Kaiser Permanente, generator; Laulima Farm, farm equipment; Maui Diamond Sea Sports, boat; Maui Community College, generator; Neaulani Farm, farm equipment; Maui Recycling Service, in 4 recycling trucks; and several condominiums use biodiesel in generators. Biodiesel is also extensively across the United States and in Europe.

Who else can benefit from biodiesel?

Biodiesel strengthens Maui’s and the nation’s energy security while generating new industry and high-quality jobs. The United States imports 60 percent of its oil. Imported oil is expected to grow to 70 percent very soon. Biodiesel also has a positive energy balance, generating three or more units of energy for every unit required to make it. And because it is biodegradable and nontoxic, biodiesel poses little to no environmental threat while in transit.

Can biodiesel help mitigate global warming?

A 1998 biodiesel lifecycle study, jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, concluded biodiesel reduces net CO2 emission by 78 percent compared to petroleum diesel. This is due to biodiesel’s closed carbon cycle. The CO2 released into the atmosphere when biodiesel is burned is recycled by growing plants, which are later processed into fuel.

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