Bioenergy, Hydropower

U.S. Government Department Goes for Biodiesel

A U.S. department has signed a directive that orders its fuel tanks across the country to be filled with biodiesel where feasible.

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri, US, 2001-08-20 [SolarAccess.com] A U.S. department has signed a directive that orders its fuel tanks across the country to be filled with biodiesel where feasible. “Agriculture can help us solve our energy problems through the production of domestic liquid fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel,” says U.S. agriculture secretary Ann Veneman. “Renewable energy is good for independence, good for farmers, and good for the environment.” Every gallon of biodiesel fuel that is used in place of ordinary petroleum-based diesel fuel has the potential of extending non-renewable fossil energy reserves by four times, says Joe Jobe, executive director of the National Biodiesel Board. He cites a federal lifecycle analysis, which finds that biodiesel has an energy balance of 3.2-to-1, the highest of any fuel, compared with 0.83-to-1 for petroleum diesel. “For every unit of energy used to produce biodiesel, 3.2 units of energy are gained,” explains Jobe. “This is the highest energy balance of any fuel and four times higher than conventional diesel fuel.” Biodiesel is an alternative fuel made from renewable sources such as soybean oil. At a recent session conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland, a variety of biodiesel uses were demonstrated. The facility uses biodiesel in its vehicles and as heating fuel in some buildings, as well as to power generators and mowers. At that meeting, Jobe emphasized that biodiesel not only reduces CO2 emissions, but is also recognized as reducing health hazards from diesel exhaust. It is the only alternative fuel to pass the rigorous health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act, he explained, and noted that biodiesel has premium diesel characteristics including high lubricity and high cetane, which leads to reduced maintenance cost and increased engine life. Biodiesel performs comparably to diesel, and has similar BTU content, and he said it is the safest of all fuels to use, handle and store. More than 100 major fleets use biodiesel, including public utilities, government agencies, school districts and other transit authorities. The fuel has been successful in 40 million road miles and countless marine, boiler and generator applications. Biodiesel is listed with the Department of Energy as an alternative fuel and registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a fuel and a fuel additive. The results, submitted to EPA last year, show biodiesel is non-toxic, biodegradable and free of sulfur. It reduces carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons and particulate matter emissions.