Biodiesel Production Expected to Triple

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) anticipates 75 million gallons of biodiesel production in 2005, three times the 25 million gallons produced in 2004. A federal tax incentive, state legislation and a diesel shortage all contribute to the rise in demand.

For example, in downtown Seattle, the president and founder of Seattle Biodiesel, John Plaza, says his 5 million gallon per year plant can’t make biodiesel fast enough. He says the plant is producing biodiesel at full capacity — and his customers snap it up as soon as it is made. Plaza thinks Americans are finally waking up to alternative fuels. “A lot of Americans like the patriotic aspect of biodiesel,” he said. “The environmental benefits add value, but creating a stronger America through energy security is many people’s true motivation — including my own.” The biodiesel industry will meet growing demand with increased production. There are currently 45 active biodiesel plants. The average size is about 6.5 million gallons per year, but some larger plants in the 30 million gallon range have also opened. In all, 45 plants produce biodiesel, with another 54 planned. “The recent energy crunch causes us to think about energy in a way that we haven’t in decades,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of NBB. “Americans are recognizing that conservation and alternative energy are a big part of the answer to our energy questions. Many alternative energy sources are theoretical. But with biodiesel, we can supplement our energy supply immediately.” Biodiesel works in any diesel engine with few or no modifications. It offers similar horsepower and torque compared to petroleum diesel. It has enhanced lubricity and cetane. Although made from any fat or vegetable oil, soybean oil is the most common source of biodiesel in the U.S. Seattle Biodiesel uses soy, but is looking at the viability of canola oil too. “We made a small batch of biodiesel from canola oil, making us the first to turn a Washington-grown crop into biodiesel for the marketplace,” Plaza said. “We’re quite enamored with driving around on it.” More than 600 major fleets use biodiesel nationwide. Those include the National Park Service, state departments of transportation and the military. Nationally, more than 600 retail filling stations make biodiesel blends available to the public. Biodiesel has the highest energy balance of any transportation fuel.

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