What Happened to Bio-Diesel?

Suggestions for replacing diesel oil include bio-diesel made from grease, Jatropha oil, palm oil and soybeans.

The United States uses 4 million barrels of distillates every day, with diesel fuel representing about two-thirds of the 4 million bbls/day.

Articles on the Internet and in environmental magazines find that using greases and fats for powering diesel cars to be a popular subject: There is romance in thinking about using the grease left over from cooking our dinner to power our car.

Using greases, however, would have very little impact on the amount of diesel fuel we use every day.

Using census bureau data for the amount of fats collected in the United States, a consulting group estimated that 963,946,950 gallons of biodiesel could have been produced from all the waste tallow, lard and grease produced in the United States during 2007.

In total therefore, greases could have produced a measly 0.06 million barrels of bio-diesel per day compared to the three to four million barrels of diesel oil used daily.

Jatropha was originally thought to be a panacea for producing bio-diesel since Jatropha needs little water to grow.

Experience has demonstrated, however, that Jatropha isn’t the miracle plant it was originally thought to be. While it doesn’t need water to grow, it does require water and irrigation to produce enough oil to make bio-diesel from Jatropha profitable. BP has recently cancelled its Jatropha program, which is interesting since BP and its partners have planted 25% of worldwide plantings of Jatropha.

So much for “Beyond Petroleum”.

Bio-diesel from palm oil, used primarily in Europe, has become an environmental disgrace with trees being bulldozed in Asia to provide land for growing palm trees.

Soybeans and other crops from which bio-diesel could be produced use the same land being proposed for growing crops for producing ethanol. Obviously only one crop and one fuel can be produced at any given time. Soybeans are also an important food crop, so there are ethical reasons for not converting a food to a chemical to power our vehicles.

Grease, Jatropha oil, palm oil and soybeans cannot replace diesel fuel. Perhaps there is something that can produce bio-diesel in large quantities, but no one knows with any certainty what it would be.

Bio-diesel substitutes for diesel oil do not exist in substantial quantities except in the fevered imagination of people who hate the oil industry or those who are overcome by fear of global warming.


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