America is a commuter society. Each and every day millions of Americans hop into cars, trucks, and sports utility vehicles and begin their daily commute. We begin and end our work days amidst the traffic jams, exhaust fumes, screeching brakes, and blaring horns that define the great American commute. Take a moment to stop and take it all in on your ride to work tomorrow. Consider that each and every time we drive we contribute to problem of air pollution. We contribute to the problem of increasing rates of asthma in children. And we contribute to the problem of global warming. Then, think about the skyrocketing price of gasoline. Is it worth it? Not when there is a better way. And there is a better way: biodiesel.
Diesel engines have always provided consumers with an efficient alternative to the standard gasoline engine. According to the National Biodiesel Board, “Diesel engines are about 30 percent more efficient than gasoline engines.”
But biodiesel takes the benefits of diesel technology to a whole new level. “Biodiesel is safe, biodegradable, and reduces serious air pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and air toxics,” according to the to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. Drivers can reduce their contribution to global warming by choosing biodiesel, as vehicles that run on biodiesel produce significantly less carbon based emissions than vehicles that run on standard diesel or gasoline.
Biodiesel can help the country achieve its dream of energy independence because it can be produced domestically. Increased investment in biodiesel production could lead to the creation thousands of new jobs for American workers.
Many people believe that they would have to invest in costly modifications to their vehicle’s engine in order to convert to biodiesel. For certain types of diesel engines modifications may have to be made if the vehicles owner wants to use pure biodiesel. In its purest form biodiesel can act as a solvent, corroding engine components like tubing and gaskets – especially in older model diesel engines. Pure biodiesel can break down substances that have built up within an engine, thereby clogging filters and other parts. Luckily, it is possible to replace susceptible engine components with biodiesel friendly alternatives.
But biodiesel is also a diverse fuel that is available in blended forms that can be used in unmodified diesel engines. Those who wish to convert to biodiesel without making any modifications to their diesel engine can use B20, a fuel blend that contains 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent traditional diesel. This option may be the best bet for newcomers to the world of biodiesel. A car fueled by B20 is still a vast improvement in terms of environmental impact.
Availability is another concern cited by consumers who may be reluctant to make the switch to biodiesel. Amazingly, sales of biodiesel in the U.S. increased from 500,000 gallons in 1999 to 250 million gallons in 2006. Biodiesel is compatible with fuel pump systems found at most gas stations, so increased demand will likely lead to increased availability. The U.S. Department of Energy’s has created an online Alternative Fueling Station Locator to help consumers find out where they can fill up on biodiesel.
Many users of biodiesel make their own fuel right at home. Biodiesel can be derived from a number of eco-friendly sources. For example, used oil and grease discarded by restaurants can process into biodiesel. Motivated individuals can help recycle society’s waste into environmentally friendly fuel.
The shift from standard gasoline to biodiesel may not happen over night, but it is not as difficult as it may seem. Conversion to biodiesel would not require any major changes to our nation’s infrastructure – except of course for a vast increase in the number of diesel vehicles manufactured each year. If you are in the market for a new vehicle, you can help drive the market in the right direction by buying diesel.
Americans do not need to sit and wait for Congress to enact laws that will save the environment. We can do out part by investing in biodiesel and other green products that already exist.
Written by: David Anderson