News and information about Biodiesel & alternative fuels.



Via the excellent new Green Car Congress blog, there's news of a biodiesel trial in Denver:
"Denver will begin using an alternative fuel in 60 city vehicles as part of a pilot project unveiled Thursday, which was Earth Day."

"Mayor John Hickenlooper said he expects the city to use about 50,000 gallons of clean-burning B20 biodiesel by the end of the year."


The Southern Illinoisan reports,
"John A. Logan College automotive instructor Lee Rawson is a pioneer when it comes to alternative fuel knowledge. For the last five years, he has operated a vehicle that runs on biodiesel fuel. And the last three years, he has operated a vehicle that runs strictly on cooking oil."

"Making a hands-on presentation Wednesday afternoon at the college before a group of 40 fascinated students and onlookers, Rawson explained that biodiesel fuel can be made in the comfort of your own garage with a few helpful hints."
I like that, "a group of 40 fascinated students and onlookers." Nice!


Great news from the Philippines:
"The Philippines Wednesday formally launched its coconut methyl ester initiative under the supevision of the newly created National Clean Diesel Task Force as part of the government's effort to boost use of the environment friendly fuel and lower its expensive oil imports bill. The task force was set up to oversee the implementation of the program, which aims to promote the product first to government-run organizations and then to the public, aDepartment of Energy offical said Thursday."

Straight Up

Eric over at Schoebiz posted an easy-to-understand piece on the composition of biodiesel:
"I guess they use the word "bio" because the ingredients come from biological sources. The ingredients are methanol, lye, and fat. You can make this stuff out of waste vegetable oil (WVO) from a Burger King. Fat is just a series of triglycerides. A triglyceride is comprised of three (tri) fatty acid chains and one glycerine molecule. When you mix the lye and methanol with the triglycerides, the lye breaks up the glycerine from the three fatty acid chains it’s connected to. Then the methanol comes in and connects with all the broken up fatty acid chains. So the final product is basically a whole lot of methyl esters (a methanol combined with a fatty acid chain) mixed in with some leftover lye and glycerine. Once you wash the solution and drain out the extra shit, you have pure methyl esters. And that's all biodiesel is. But let me tell you, these methyl esters are crazy. I mean, you can run a freaking car on them."
Right on, Eric.

Why do I dig biodiesel?

Over at the Livejournal Biodiesel Community, Spike asks,
"So, what draws you to biodiesel? Is there one thing in particular, or is it a combination of many things? Inquiring minds wanna know!"
For me, it boils down to one main reason: the Earth's pertroleum reserves are gonna be gone sooner rather than later, and therefore we need to change our ways sooner rather than later. Biodiesel isn't the answer, but there doesn't yet to be a single answer to the conundrum of our energy future. Biodiesel is one huge step toward a renewable economy, and is entirely feasible right now, this moment. Just pump it into a hyper-efficient VW TDI (~50 mpg, comparable to gas/electric hybrids) and you're on your way.

The Big Picture

Kumar reminds us that the biodiesel movement isn't all happy happy joy joy:
"The fact that we are driving almost 1000 miles roundtrip to pick up less than a week's worth of fuel disgusts me. Sometimes I feel like I need to talk a little bit more about conservation. Think of this story next time someone talks about how great biodiesel is. Biodiesel is a great new development, but it doesn't solve some key problems. Carpool. Walk. Bike. Use biodiesel when you need to drive, and remember: it's all about making a lighter footprint on the earth."
Kumar runs Yokayo Biofuels in Ukiah, California, north of San Francisco- there's more good info in his post, Myth Debunking 101.


A Model Activist!

I agree with Kumar- Lyle from Piedmont Biofuels is most definitely a model activist! Here's his description of meeting with the North Carolina State Energy Office:
"They were not a bunch of bureaucratic half-wits that were humoring some biodiesel whacko from Chatham County. They hit hard upon increased NOX emissions. They were well versed on ethanol (stumped me), and compressed natural gas. They were intimate with the fuel distribution lobby, and the car dealership lobby, and they knew the legislature very well. I got the distinct feeling that they also knew biodiesel."

Creating a Market

Lyle posted Piedmont Biofuels' (of Pittsboro, North Carolina) first press release, here's a great snipppet:
"We accidentally created a market," said Rachel Burton, one of the coop's founders. "People came to the classes, they started buying diesels, and started making their own fuel, and we ended up with folks at our doorstep thirsty for biofuels."

"We can't possibly make enough to meet demand, so we are putting the tanker on the road to meet the needs of our user community," said Burton.

More from Ohio

Great news from Toledo, Ohio (my home state!):
"Some big money is coming our way today from the federal government. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur says $1.5 million is coming to Toledo for a new way to gas up buses. She says by using this money to fit buses to use bio-fuels could help farmers, the environment, even the geo-political balance of power."

More linkage

World Transformation linked here last week, here's a neat factoid from their blog: "The last several times I rented a car in Europe, particularly from Avis, it was fueled by biodiesel. Which explains the occasional smell of french fries, but that is well worth it, knowing that it is much more resource friendly, and will run for many kilometers with the stuff."

Another Biodiesel Blog!

Looks like Kumar from Yokayo Biofuels started a blog over at LiveJournal, excellent! I've added him to the blogroll at the right.

After a bit more browsing, it seems he came across this here blog almost three weeks ago, d'oh! Kumar's operation looks to be ~2 hours north of me (I'm in Woodside, California), I'll have to go up for a visit some time!

There's also tons of great stuff at the LiveJournal Biodiesel Community.

Miami Airport

SolarAccess is also reporting on biodiesel rumblings at the Miami International Airport:
"The Florida Energy Office, together with Gold Coast Clean Cities Coalition and the Miami Dade Aviation Department, will assess the feasibility of replacing diesel with biodiesel fuel in baggage transport equipment and fuel trucks. The $54,000 project will also assess the market potential for biodiesel, explore its compatibility with current systems and test fuel quality, performance and storage requirements."


SolarAccess reports:
"Green Star Products, through its affiliated company American Biofuels (with a 35% ownership by GSPI), will be receiving, along with other biodiesel producers, the highest USDA biodiesel industry subsidies in history during the 2nd Quarter of 2004. The USDA set the subsidy for this period on March 18, 2004 at approximately $2.50 per gallon for West Coast producers."


Northern Ontario Business mentions a guy who just started a biodiesel business there:
"As a test project, Niles has gradually added bio-diesel to the diesel engine in his 1984 Mercedes, and by June of this year he plans to be using up to 80 per cent bio-diesel to operate his vehicle."

"The use of used cooking oils is the only way to produce bio-diesel inexpensively, and this leads to soap formation. Niles is an advocate of washed bio-diesel and believes his wash formula is superior to conventional methods. He says bio-diesel is compatible to run in any diesel engine, and can be used in any mix with petrol diesel; it is also compatible with kerosene."

Los Angeles

The Long Beach Press Telegram has some interesting facts in a recent article about biodiesel:
  • "The problem, however, is that it creates many more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than traditional diesel - as much as 12 percent higher according to a 2002 consultant report commissioned by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which regulates air locally."
  • Biodiesel from vegetable oils produces less particulate matter, more NOx and more engine impact (meaning it can wear out or dissolve engines parts more quickly than regular diesel).
  • Biodiesel from animal fat produces less NOx and engine impact, but higher PM counts.
  • When biodiesel is blended with traditional diesel, PM counts lower dramatically, NOx increases are less severe and the biodiesel inventory can be stretched.
  • If all the waste oil that the 15 million people in the South Coast air basin produce each year was turned into biodiesel, there would be enough to make about 18 million gallons each year. That's just higher than 1 percent of our local diesel consumption.
  • "The NOx is a result of temperature,' he said. "The diesel engine needs to reach a certain temperature to run and that produces NOx, so you're always going to have NOx.'
The Nitrogen stuff us new FUD to me...

BioVehicle Crash - No Worries!

The Daily Herald of Everett, Washington has this great story about an excavation vehicle crash, which resulted in 140 gallons of spilled biodiesel:
"When one of Earthwise Excavation's vehicles crashed into a drainage ditch and spilled 140 gallons of fuel from its ruptured gas tank, it could have been an environmental headache. But firefighters and an Environmental Protection Agency official responding to the spill were stumped. They had expected a large puddle of diesel requiring an intensive cleanup effort..."

"The responding crews finally decided that hosing down the area with water was enough."

Extreme Home-brew

These folks appear to be building their own biodiesel-processing facility; it's fascinating to see it documented!

Low Impact

The Low Impact Living Initiative (in the UK) has produced a nice infosheet (180k pdf) about biodiesel. From the site: "Feel free to print them, distribute them, or use them for educational purposes." Here are the rest.

North Dakota

North Dakota is seeing some biodiesel action:
"A new coalition is being formed to promote ethanol, biodiesel, wind and biomass development in North Dakota. The Renewable Energy Partnership will seek to expand markets for renewable energy. Acting chairwoman Jocie Iszler says members also will promote state and federal legislation to enhance their industry."

Senate Bill Next Week

A biodiesel tax incentive for farmers might hit the Senate floor next week, according to the Farm Press:
"National Corn Grower Association leaders say a scaled-down version of last year’s energy bill tax incentives for the production of ethanol, biodiesel and wind energy could reach the Senate floor next week. The bipartisan agreement would be a series of amendments that are likely to be attached to the Foreign Sales Corporation/Extraterritorial Income Exclusion legislation that is scheduled for debate when the Senate returns from its Easter break next week."


The HempCar folks are evangelizing industrial hemp as a biodiesel source:
"Hemp car was an alternative-fuel project car that utilized hemp biodiesel for fuel. Industrial hemp would be an economical fuel if hemp were legal to cultivate in the United States. Industrial hemp has no psychoactive properties and is not a drug. Hemp Car demonstrates the concept of hemp fuels on a national level and promotes the reformation of current law."
[via ShitHappens]

The Real Cost of Petroleum

Via Jon's blog, here's a FAQ from Yokayo Biofuels:
"It is important to understand that the price of biodiesel is an "honest price". There are no hidden taxpayer fees unlike with petroleum diesel. The true cost of a gallon of petroleum fuel has been evaluated at $5.00-$14.00+ per gallon. This high "real" cost is due to things such as taxpayer-financed subsidies to the petroleum industry and the guarding of our pipelines by the military. The potential of the "real" price of petroleum going even higher increases as we aggressively use the military to protect "our" oil supply. We think it is a safe assumption that the price of petroleum will continue to climb. Thankfully, there is no reason to assume the same with biodiesel."

Biodiesel by snail mail

Via this thread on Tribe, it appears you can have biodiesel shipped to you by UPS. Not surprisingly, prices look pretty steep.


Biodiesel FUD

For the less-geeky, FUD means Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, and this Houston Chronicle article is loaded with it:
"But automakers say they are suspicious of industry claims that biodiesel is significantly cleaner than petroleum diesel and can protect engines with its improved lubricating properties..."

"Most do not recommend the use of biodiesel in their light-truck diesel engines, although Ford Motor Co. says fuels containing no more than 5 percent biodiesel can be used in its diesel-powered vehicles. Most biodiesel fuel is blended with petroleum diesel."

"Volkswagen, the only automaker that sells diesel passenger cars in the United States, does not recommend biodiesel for use in its vehicles."
What's this nonsense about VW? Volkswagen TDIs are probably the most popular vehicle to run on biodiesel, because they're so darn efficient- 45+ mpg!


Biodiesel-powered Trains in India

"Following the directive of the Railway Board to all zonal railways in the country to try using bio-diesel as an alternative to petrol-diesel for its locomotives and vehicles owned by the railways, the Loco Works Department at the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai had started using bio-diesel for its three vehicles (one van and two jeeps) from today..."

"Bio-diesel, which is developed at a plant specially commissioned for the purpose at ICF, uses a process called esterification to convert plant seed oil into bio-diesel. The oil is collected from the seeds of the plants Jetropha and Karanjia (Pungam), which are perennial and need less water for cultivation."

Columbia (South America)

Here's a great piece about University of Colorado students helping build a 60,000-gallon biodiesel production facility for a community in Columbia; the oil will come from left-over palm leaves.

Berkeley, California

Not surprisingly, Berkeley's on top of things:
"The City of Berkeley is already on bio-diesel's cutting edge. In 2001, thanks to a large push from the Ecology Center, a local community and environmental organization, the city became the first to run its entire fleet of recycling trucks on the new alternative fuel. The success of the switch impressed city officials, and today a large part of the city's diesel fleet, including fire trucks, school busses and public works vehicles, run on bio-diesel at least part of the time."


Good news: DaimerChrysler is testing biodiesel in India:
"Flagging off the test run from the headquarters in Pune, DaimlerChrysler India CEO, Hans Michael Huber, said, 'Our biodiesel project has been a very successful initiative. The fuel prepared from extracts of the Jatropha plant has already been approved through laboratory testing.'"


The Maui News:
"But will Oahu take to a diesel vehicle - no matter how environmentally friendly - that smells like a fried akule?"

"'We'll find out,' said Pacific Biodiesel owner Bob King on Friday, as the first car powered by diesel fuel refined from fish oil rolled out at an Odyssey Day show at Neal Blaisdell Center..."

"Actually, despite all the jokes about herrings and tuna, the fuel source is Bering Sea pollack oil, the residue from processing the fish into surimi, most often seen here as imitation crabmeat."
Far out!

Update: Sadly the Maui News' permalink is broken, so Google's cached version will have to do.


Nice, my home state is in biodiesel news!
"The 900-student liberal arts college in Portage County [Hiram College] is working on how to make environmentally friendly biodiesel fuel -- a nonpetroleum blend of old cooking oil or soybean oil combined with methanol or ethanol and a catalyst -- more useful. Navistar Corp., one of the world's largest makers of diesel engines, is funding the five-year project at a cost of about $25,000 a year."

VeggieVan Blog

Nice- it looks like the VeggieVan folks have started a blog! There's nothing there yet, but this sure has potential!

Californians: Sign This Petition!

"Assemblywoman Shirley Horton (R. San Diego) introduced California Assembly BILL A.B.2899 in February of 2004. This bill seeks to level the playing field in California by removing restrictions on the sale of biodiesel enacted by the Department of Weights and Measures... The bill would specify standards for the sale biodiesel and biodiesel blends and establish a program of voluntary CO2 content labeling program."

Sign Here!

[via Tales from the Cauldron]

Update: Berkeley Daily Planet: "Despite efforts by both the Engine Manufacturers Association and ChevronTexaco Corporation to put roadblocks in the bio-diesel fuel regulation process, the California Department of Weights and Measures has opted only to regulate the fuel more thoroughly, not ban it outright."

Biodiesel in Canadian Locomotives

Great news from Canada!
"The interest of the railway sector in biodiesel, as voiced by the Railway Association of Canada, stems primarily from the potential to further reduce Canadian railway GHG [greenhouse gas emissions] on an annual basis. Also, in view of growing interest in biodiesel by various jurisdictions in Canada, the railway sector wishes to be prepared should incentives or mandating arise."

New England

Associated Press: Biodiesel gains another foothold in New Hampshire

Biodiesel on Fox News (seriously!)

Wow, Fox News actually did a short segment about Biodiesel; here's the 6-meg WMV video clip, including the interview with Daryl Hannah, courtesy of Grassolean:
(Mac users can download Windows Media Player from here)

Biodiesel Starting-Costs

Here's an informative thread on Tribe about getting started using biodiesel, with some great advice for newbies like me!
"This is probably obvious, but startup costs for bio-diesel can be absolutely nill. Just go buy a diesel car and find a place you can fill it up at."

Trucking Fleets

PRNewswire, Fleets Urge Engine Makers to Support Biodiesel:
"The survey of 53 fleets representing more than 50,000 diesel-powered vehicles found that the vast majority -- 91 percent -- are in favor of using biodiesel. Forty-five percent of fleets surveyed are currently using biodiesel, and among them a 20 percent blend of biodiesel (B20) is the fuel of choice."


According to Suhit Anantula's Rural India Blog, a new agri-business incubator just launched in India:
"Rusni Distilleries will collaborate for generating extra-neutral alcohol and fuel alcohol that can be added to petrol from sweet sorghum varieties developed by Icrisat."

"Bioseed Research, part of the DCM Sriram Group, will work on research projects related to the application of agricultural biotechnology for the development of superior cotton hybrids..."

"Some of the other technologies under consideration for incubation include generation of biodiesel from jatropha and pongamia, sugar production from sweet sorghum, product development from hybrid paddy, and development of biopesticides."


The Australian Democratic Party appears to be promoting biodiesel:
"'The Senate is set to resume debate on the ethanol excise again tomorrow, with the Democrats determined to push ahead with our amendment to increase the excise-free area on ethanol to 10 years,' Senator Cherry said..."

"The promotion of cleaner fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, and the development of a renewable energy industry could be the single biggest boost to regional development and value adding of agricultural produce that the Howard Government could do."
Update: Apparently the tax exemption passed: "Australian Democrats Senator Lyn Allison hailed the Government back-down on excise for alternative transport fuels a major win for the Democrats, the alternative fuels industry and rural communities."


A refinery in Kansas appears to be the first in the US to offer pre-blended biodiesel at its loading racks:
"'Soybean checkoff surveys show biodiesel use among soybean farmers has reached or exceeded 50 percent in some states,' said Greg Anderson, chairman of the United Soybean Board."

"The move to preblended fuel will make soy biodiesel more readily available because it will remove the need for distributors to purchase biodiesel components and blend it themselves."


Texas Tea

Fast Company Now has coverage of Kenneth Deffeyes's speech at WTF 2004, on The End of the Oil Age. It's an excellent read:
"Since 1950, we've gone for half a century without finding another billion-barrel oil field. If you've caught most of the fish in the pond, that fancy fly rod isn't going to do very well. That's the reality here. We've found oil fields that contain 95% of the oil we've ever going to find. That's the worst of the bad news..."

"I have this fear of what the world will look like when supply rolls over. When I look at what's happened since 2000 isn't very attractive. A lot of what's happening -- Sept. 11, the recession -- is largely because energy is no longer going to be cheap."