The Facts

biodiesel_pump_p0500.jpg Myth: Biodiesel takes up too many acres of agricultural land, thereby increasing food prices and causing deforestation.
Fact: All ecoShuttle vehicles operate on Waste Vegetable Oil, which is free from most restaurants is also a viable and sustainable option. 30 million gallons of waste vegetable oil are produced in restaurants a year, a waste that most restaurants pay to dispose of, a waste that simply doesn’t need to be a waste. Through a filtration and transesterfication process, this can easily be turned into a ready fuel source for modern diesel engines requiring no conversion to the engine at all. This is recycled fuel, which takes up zero agricultural land.

Biodiesel can also come from other sustainable sources. Algae can produce biodiesel using significantly less land than growing seed biodiesel from the start. The algae doubles in mass every few hours and can therefore be harvested quickly and easily. Also, plants that grow in poor soil and dry climates, such as switchgrass and camolina, can also be turned into biodiesel. This helps farmers utilize “waste” land, turning its products into profit.

Myth: Biodiesel is ethanol.
Fact: Ethanol and Biodiesel are completely different. Ethanol is a fermentation product, primarily made from corn grain and sugarcane. Biodiesel is chemically-converted fat or oil. Ethanol is blended into gasoline. Biodiesel is blended into diesel fuel.1

Myth: Biodiesel will wreck your engine.
Fact: Engine manufacturers are especially cautious about new fuels, but some of biggest names in the diesel world have cleared B20 from doing any harm. Biodiesel and diesel fuel are similar in chemical structure and have similar properties, so they burn similarly in diesel engines. But biodiesel has some specific advantages. Biodiesel adds significant lubricity to the fuel (something that sulfur formally did in diesel fuel, but has since been reduced, hence low-sulfur diesel), reducing engine wear and reportedly extending engine life. Biodiesel has a higher cetane number (higher ignitability) and combusts more completely. Biodiesel is also a good solvent and will clean out diesel fuel residue left in the fuel tank and lines. Over time, because it’s such a good solvent, biodiesel can degrade rubber fuel lines and gaskets. Most post-1990 vehicles don’t have rubber lines and gaskets, but some older vehicles do. I have driven for a year now on B100 and B50 with no visible deterioration of my rubber fuel lines.1

Myth: Biodiesel will cause a noticeable power decrease.
Fact: Biodiesel contains about 8% less energy per gallon than petroleum diesel. For someone using B20, this means a 1-2% loss in power, torque, and fuel efficiency. To put things into perspective, that’s about a 2 mph difference on the freeway at 55. Millions of miles of onroad tests (aka trucking) have shown that B20 and diesel are practically indistinguishable. B100 users may notice a slight drop in fuel mileage, but torque and power are usually comparable.1

Myth: Biodiesel requires more energy to produce than is provided by the fuel.
Fact: The vast majority of literature out there shows a positive energy balance, meaning that more energy is produced in the fuel than is used to grow the crop, press the seeds, process the oil into biodiesel, and distribute the product. The most common numbers I’ve seen say about 2-3x more energy is produced, or 1 unit of energy in equals 2-3 units of energy out. Compare this to corn-grain ethanol, which optimistically produces 25% more energy than is put into it.1

Myth: Biodiesel exhaust produces more harmful emissions than diesel.
Fact: Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that has completed all the testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. Biodiesel contains oxygen and burns more completely than diesel fuel, hence reduced emissions. All major pollutants are reduced dramatically in biodiesel exhaust (most of them at least 50% for B100), except one (NOx), and that’s only for blends over B20. B20 reduces air toxics by 20-40%, while B100 reduces them by as much as 90%. Sulfur oxides and sulfates (major contributors to acid rain) are almost completely eliminated. The only caveat is that nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions can increase up to 10% with B100.1
1Clayton B. Cornell, http://claytonbodiecornell.greenoptions.com/2007/04/05/green-myth-bustingbiodiesel/.

Climate Change

vostok-temp-and-carbon-chart.jpg
Climate change awareness is changing the way that the world views its actions and increasingly forces us to take responsibility for the consequences that result from them. All of the very best scientific evidence available and with almost unanimous acceptance in the scientific community, indicates that the net increases in greenhouse gasses since 1750 and the rapid increase in the global average temperatures since 1950 results from human activity. The manifestations of climate change, including sea level rises, higher temperatures and increasingly intense hydrological cycles will initially affect the most vulnerable natural and human systems as was witnessed in the devastation of the vulnerable coastal human and natural systems the New Orleans, Louisiana flood of 2005. Eventually entire regions around the globe will begin to experience severe damage from the changes in world climate.

indicates that the net increases in greenhouse gasses since 1750 and the rapid increase in the global average temperatures since 1950 results from human activity

This will result if the levels of pollution that contributes to the greenhouse gasses aren’t curbed aggressively at an international scale.

Energy use in the U.S.

Although the United States has less than 5% of the world’s population, it creates 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is because the United States consumes fossil fuels at a higher rate per person than any other country. In fact, twice as much as the second closest and about five and a half times the global average. Of the world’s 20 largest economies, the US ranks 15th in efficiency of fossil fuel usage, less than half as efficient as the top 3 (France, Brazil, Italy) and below the global average. After a century of leading the world in creating pollution, it’s time the United States began to lead the world in efforts to reduce it.

Transportation/Biodiesel

Since 1970, the population of the has gone up 49% while the vehicle miles traveled has gone up 177%, more than three times faster than the rate of population growth. With such a demonstrated dependence on and growth in vehicle usage, the carbon dioxide emissions created from transportation in the US, which is higher than those from industrial, residential or commercial sources becomes a primary target for those who wish to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. One of the biggest single reasons so many vehicle miles are driven is that in the US 75.7% of trips are driven alone, one person, one car. Mass commuting (private and public) options need to be expanded and tailored to consumers to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Aside from this grave necessity, the US lags behind other developed (and even some still developing nations) in vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Allowing automobile manufacturers to produce vehicles with worse fuel efficiency restricts the investment into alternative, low-emissions energy sources such as electric, hydrogen and biodiesel vehicles. Of these, biodiesel offers the best combination of benefits, as carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 78% and particulate emissions reductions of 20-50%. For this reason, any newer diesel vehicle and with small modifications to the majority of older models can run on 100% biodiesel. Biodiesel is a fuel that can be produced in the US, reducing our dependence on foreign countries for our energy needs. It is crucial that new fuels and commuting methods, such as Biodiesel and increases in mass transit, be integrated into the United States’ transportation models, because it is critical that the US helps to forge sustainable energy practices and technologies for its energy use to inspire its citizens and ultimately, the whole world.

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