What is Biodiesel?

It is a renewable energy source.

To understand what biodiesel is, we must first understand what “renewable energy source” means.  It is any energy source that is naturally replenished, i.e., from solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, biogas, or wind action unlike natural resources such as natural gas, oil, or coal that, once depleted or used cannot be replenished.

Renewable energy can be produced repeatedly in a short period of time.  Therefore, biodiesel can be produced repeatedly from another source, specifically, recycled restaurant greases (as well as algae, other vegetable oils or animal fats).

A chemical process called transesterification produces biodiesel by separating the glycerin from the vegetable oil or fat.  This process creates two by-products, biodiesel (or methyl esters) and glycerin.  The glycerin is generally sold to manufacturers of soaps and other products.

Biodegradable and non-toxic, when utilized, biodiesel produces approximately 60% less carbon dioxide emissions.  Although it is currently more expensive to use in the United States, this may change due to economies of scale, government tax subsidies and the rising cost of petroleum.  For example, in Germany, it is cheaper that normal diesel and the number one alternative fuel.

There are other positive factors in the use of Biodiesel.  It is environmentally friendly because it is biodegradable with no hazard to underground water or soil in the event of accidents. It is the only alternative fuel to successfully completed the Health Effects Testing requirements of the Clean Air Act (1990). It has a flash point higher than petroleum reducing the fire hazard of its storage, utilization and transportation.

Biodiesel emissions have decreased the amount of potential cancer causing compounds being released into the environment.  It is a better lubricant than conventional diesel fuel, extending engine life.

Some negative considerations include the fact that if monoculture farming techniques or deforestation are used to grow biofuel cops, biodiesel can become a serious threat to the environment.  Mass growing of corn or other crops earmarked to be used to make biodiesel instead of food consumption can affect the food markets or the world as prices will increase for food products.

The biodiesel market is expected to continue to grow due to the benefits of having cleaner emissions and being a renewable energy source.