Sunday, May 21, 2006

Biodiesel the Granddaddy of Fuels

Tired of high gas prices? Want to save the earth? Want to support local economies and clean the air while getting high performance out of your vehicle? Try Biodiesel. It's clean, sustainable, domestic, renewable AND you can make it at home!!! Wave farewell to petroleum.

Amidst the hybrid hype, there has been little mention of one of the oldest 'alternative' fuels with some tremendous advantages. Invented and patented by Rudolf Diesel in 1893, diesel engines were first made to run on various vegetable oils. Thus, almost any diesel engine outfitted with the right hoses is capable of cleaner, vegan, non-petroleum based Biodiesel operation. (Most newer diesels have the right hoses).

Diesels have tremendous advantages. Although their pricepoint can be somewhat higher initially, it's well worth it in the long run. Diesel engines are well known for their consistent reliability, length of engine life, and perhaps most importantly, their fuel economy. In our ever-growing awareness of planetary resources and taking geopolitical circumstances into account, fuel economy is beginning to take a place of primacy.

When running on biodiesel, there are tremendous emissions benefits as well. Traditional dinosaur-diesel powered engines have gotten a bad rap for their dark, smoky exhaust, smell and pollution of our air. Biodiesel, on the other hand, reduces emissions significantly in every category in which pollutants are measured except nitrous oxide (NOx) which can be adjusted with some slight modifications. Unlike their petroleum powered counterparts, biodiesel exhaust smells pleasantly like the feedstock of whatever vegetable oil is used. (There are tales of people who have used recycled fryer oil for their biodiesel from their local doughnut shop and subsequently end up with visions of Krispy Kreme.)

Performance wise, biodiesel has a higher lubricity than conventional diesel, subsequently acting as a bit of an 'enema' for the engine, cleaning out the dinosaur residue, so be sure and replace the fuel filter after the first couple of tanks of biodiesel. After that, because biodiesel is so clean burning, it actually may reduce maintenance costs and extend engine life.

Europe, which has traditionally been more diesel-heavy than the US, (currently diesels occupy about 40 % of the European market) has recently increased its emissions standards and subsequently the use of biodiesel has taken off in a big way. Europeans are supporting the growth of the biodiesel industry through farming subsidies of biodiesel feedstocks unknown in the US until this week when Oregon introduced a similar bill in their State Legislature.

Another tremendous advantage of Biodiesel is its blend-ability. Biodiesel can be used straight (called B100) or blended in any percentage with conventional #2 diesel, and even at low percentages (B5 or B10) has incredible emissions benefits. Subsequently, if you're out traveling and don't have access to homemade or storebought biodiesel, you can use regular diesel in your tank with no conversion issues.

There are an ever-growing number of biodiesel filling stations available if you don't have space or interest in making your own. Check with for more information of what's available in your area. For more biodiesel resources see

On a personal note, I've been running my VW Jetta TDI (Turbo Diesel Injection) on Biodiesel (mostly B100) for the last three years with only good things to say. It's been trouble-free and now it's actually pleasant to have the sunroof open. And if your outdated ideas suggest that diesels compromise performance or speed, feel free to sniff my doughnuts.

A Registered Nurse with a long-term interest in holistic wellness, Katrina Hugenot writes regularly on topics relating to health, nutrition, sustainability, and well-being. She can be contacted at:
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