Tuesday, November 30, 2004


interesting paper on changethis about biodiesel

In the United States, oil is primarily used for transportation — roughly two-thirds of all oil use, in fact. So, developing an alternative means of powering our cars, trucks, and buses would go a long way towards weaning us, and the world, off of oil. While the so-called "hydrogen economy" receives a lot of attention in the media, there are several very serious problems with using hydrogen as an automotive fuel. For automobiles, the best alternative at present is clearly biodiesel, a fuel that can be used in existing diesel engines with no changes, and is made from vegetable oils or animal fats rather than petroleum.
One of the biggest advantages of biodiesel compared to many other alternative transportation fuels is that it can be used in existing diesel engines without modification, and can be blended in at any ratio with petroleum diesel.
One of the important concerns about wide-scale development of biodiesel is if it would displace croplands currently used for food crops. In the US, roughly 450 million acres of land is used for growing crops, with the majority of that actually being used for producing animal feed for the meat industry. Another 580 million acres is used for grassland pasture and range, according to the USDA's Economic Research Service.
NREL's research showed that one quad (ten billion gallons) of biodiesel could be produced from 200,000 hectares of desert land (200,000 hectares is equivalent to 780 square miles, roughly 500,000 acres), if the remaining challenges are solved (as they will be, with several research groups and companies working towards it, including ours at UNH). In the previous section, we found that to replace all transportation fuels in the US, we would need 140.8 billion gallons of biodiesel, or roughly 19 quads (one quad is roughly 7.5 billion gallons of biodiesel). To produce that amount would require a land mass of almost 15,000 square miles. To put that in perspective, consider that the Sonora desert in the southwestern US comprises 120,000 square miles. Enough biodiesel to replace all petroleum transportation fuels could be grown in 15,000 square miles, or roughly nine percent of the area of the Sonora desert.
[the costs] equate to $46.2 billion per year for all the algae farms, to yield all the oil feedstock necessary for the entire country. Compare that to the $100-150 billion the US spends each year just on purchasing crude oil from foreign countries, with all of that money leaving the US economy.

apparently, you can make your own biodiesel at home too.


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