From French fries to fuel: using biodiesel to drive the future

renewable energy - biodieselWhen petroleum products like gasoline are burned, they invariably release toxic gases into the atmosphere, creating smog and contributing to global warming. It’s a situation with numerous detrimental effects to life on our planet. As a result, scientists have stepped up their efforts in energy research to discover and develop cleaner, renewable sources of power.

Among the options that show promise is Biodiesel fuel.

Unlike the much-maligned fossil fuels, biodiesel fuels are created by combining alcohol with renewable animal or vegetable oils. In the case of animal fats, the oils generally utilized include lard or even milk products like butter. Widely used vegetable oils include those made from corn and olives.

One of the attractions of biodiesel is that the required oils can be reclaimed from sources that would otherwise become waste products. For example, a typical busy restaurant might use 10 gallons or more to operate a deep fryer. Yet, after only a few batches of chicken, onion rings, fish or hush puppies, the grease must be replaced.

In the past, these frying oils were simply thrown away. In fact, disposal of this material was a problem in itself! With the growing popularity of biodiesel, a great deal of this “waste” is collected and transformed into fuel. What once was simply discarded can now be productively reused. What you see today in a French fryer could soon be in the fuel tank of an eighteen-wheeler.

In addition to being able to use a material that would otherwise become a waste product, the resulting Biodiesel is a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. When petroleum is burned, it releases an enormous amount of noxious carbon dioxide. Gallon for gallon, Biodiesel fuel produces less than one quarter of the amount of carbon dioxide, as compared to gasoline or petroleum-based diesel fuel.

Carbon dioxide is the most common component of what is known as greenhouse gases. These are the main culprits responsible for global warming. Carbon monoxide, another toxic gas that creates smog and health problems in our cities, is also substantially reduced. In addition to drastically reducing carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions, sulfur emissions are eliminated completely.

The process of creating Biodiesel fuel is also astoundingly efficient. The energy required to refine and manufacture gasoline can use up as much as 85 percent of the energy the gasoline ultimately produces. However, Biodiesel fuels can produce twice the energy as is needed to make it.

Biodiesel fuel is also proven to be good for the machines that use it. Because it is a cleaner burning fuel, there are fewer contaminating particles that normally accumulate in a combustion engine. This lowers the levels of friction inside the engine, improving efficiency and reducing wear.

Biodiesel’s environmental advantages make it a natural choice for further alternative fuel development. It can make use of materials that were previously wasted, it can lessen the introduction of harmful pollutants, and it is a resource that is renewable.

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