WVO Suppliers Gouging

I don’t know if other biodiesel plants are seeing the same kinds of things we are, but we are seeing a flood of “new” WVO suppliers getting into the market in our region. This should be a good thing, except they all believe they are going to get rich quick and think they are sitting on a pot of gold. Many want money upfront, will ask for premium prices, and they usually have crap oil. If you’re running a biodiesel plant, don’t buy from these companies on these terms.

Want to sell us waste vegetable oil? Great! Here are our terms –

    1. We will be a regular customer and pay you via check or wire transfer upon verified weights and product specifications. We do short and long term contracts, and buy spot loads as well. We will never bid on loads or “pay upwards” to guarantee a load. If you like to shop loads, don’t bother calling us.
      We typically pay on Net 3 or Net 5 terms. (That’s much faster than we get paid for biodiesel, by the way.)
      We will buy from you whenever you have oil available, and will pay a reasonable price per gallon for good quality oil. Have crappy oil? Clean it up or find another customer. We don’t want it.
      Have a diesel truck? We will sell you biodiesel at a discount from our retail price (usually cheaper than diesel at the pump).

Recently we’ve had one oil collector from the coast coming all the way into Wilson to collect oil (in our own back yard). Indeed, this same collector has placed their bins right beside our own (which they then covered up) without even soliciting the restaurant to change accounts. This is the kind of thing that makes me actually want to support the NC House Bill 512 (H512-CSRF-15), which is a rendering bill to require all oil collectors in NC to become licensed & insured, and institutes more severe penalties for stealing grease. In general, I think HB512 is bad legislation and will hurt the biodiesel industry in North Carolina, but when the WVO market gets crazy like it is now, perhaps something should be done.   To the legislators:  Want to make a good law?  How about one like the EU that bans the use of waste vegetable oil in the animal feed industry.  It’s tantamount to cannibalism and is a potential source for such problems as Mad Cow Disease.   That law, by itself, would free up a very large amount of feedstock for the biodiesel industry and bring prices down to more reasonable levels.

We buy a large amount of grease every week from a variety of sources, including local restaurants we pickup ourselves. All of this grease gets turned into biodiesel which we sell to various entities throughout the state. When we sell fuel, we always remember the golden rule: “He who has the gold, rules.

We have one simple rule at TBI when buying products and services: Don’t buy from companies that forget you are the customer.

 

NC Excise Tax on Diesel Fuel – 9th highest in the USA

North Carolina raised the state excise tax to 32.5 cents per gallon for diesel fuel in January, making our state the 9th highest in the nation for fuel taxes!

The states that charge more? Predictable, in my opinion:

California .3970
Connecticut .3960
New York .3925
Pennsylvania .3810
Illinois .3780
Michigan .3400
Wisconsin .3290
Washington .3750

 

My question is, if North Carolina is the only Southern state here (cheaper road maintenance), with a fairly low tax rate, no unions, a lower median income, and no real infrastructure advantage over these other states, what does our government do with all the money?!

 

TBI Biodiesel in VW Jetti TDI – Follow Up

We’ve been running biodiesel in our cars and trucks here at TBI for several years. One of our employees, finally sold his pickup truck and got a much more fuel efficient VW Jetta TDI to run biodiesel in it.

Following the same rules we tell all our new customers, he ran the first few tankloads of fuel as a lower biodiesel blend, B20, so it would not clog up his fuel filter and leave him stranded as the biodiesel began to clean out his fuel system and engine. After running about 3,000 miles on B20 and B50 blends, he changed his fuel filter and brought it in to show us here at TBI.

Fuel filter and sludge after biodiesel clean out

In the first photo  you can see the fuel filter and the sludge on the screwdriver that shows the gunk that came out of the fuel system.  This is diesel fuel residue and tars that accumulate over time when using petroleum diesel.  Because biodiesel is slightly solvent, it breaks down these residues and flushes them out of the fuel system.  This is a good thing, unless it happens all at once.  That’s why we recommend using a low blend such as B20 to start off with when switching a used engine on biodiesel for the first time  (new engines won’t have this problem because they haven’t run hours and hours on diesel fuel).

I broke my own rule once and started a 20 year old truck with straight B100 after many years of using petroleum diesel fuel.  I got about 1000 yards before the fuel filter clogged up completely and the truck rolled to a stop.  It took me 4 more fuel filter changes before I got the truck running again.   Don’t do this…

Fuel from the “dirty” side of the fuel filter

 

The next photo shows the fuel that was pulled from the dirty side of the fuel filter and the soot that remains in the fuel.  There is still a good amount of particulate matter to be pulled from the fuel system.  Again, using lower blends makes this happen over a longer time period, and helps prevent you from being stranded on the side of the road with a stalled vehicle.

An alternative solution, albeit untested, would be to unhook your fuel line going into your engine and run straight B100 until the fuel line pumped clear fuel.  This sounds okay in theory, but nobody here has ever tested it.  In some of the VW’s with tank mounted fuel pumps, this still could cause a problem, or even a pump failure.   We like the safe and slow method, as we have done here with our other cars and trucks.

As of this date, we have three VW TDI’s running biodiesel at either B50 or B80 blends, or straight B100 blends.  Two of these vehicles have been running B100 for over 100,000 miles with no fuel related breakdowns.   This, from a engine platform that VW says is only rated for B5.    Seems like they could bump up that rating a little bit to me…

 

North Carolina buys biodiesel from out of state, again…

The state of North Carolina just finished its bid process and awarded contracts for the statewide B20 Biodiesel transport contract (named 405L). The previous contract, held by one company, was furnished by a supplier who purchase most, if not all, of the fuel by railcar from out of state. When the contract was put up for bid in February of this year, we were excited to finally be able to bid on this potentially very lucrative contract.

However, the new bid contract had requirements in it which limited who could bid on it, and effectively excluded all biodiesel plants in North Carolina. The main requirements were that the plant be BQ9000 certified and that the fuel be produced from soybean oil based for a significant portion of the year. Why did the state do this? Well, presumably to ensure quality biodiesel was used in the trucks and buses that would run it. The actual benefit of these requirements are not entirely solid, and the side effect was to exclude every plant in this state that produces biodiesel.

There is only one plant in the state that is BQ9000 certified, and the effectiveness of BQ9000 for quality control is questionable to some.  (As an example, we have had TWO different BQ9000 plants provide us with biodiesel samples that failed the ASTM D6751 tests; and in one case, the fuel looked more like a vinaigrette salad dressing than it did biodiesel).  In a nutshell, BQ9000 is a documentation standard, designed to make sure the biodiesel is produced in a repeatable and testable fashion.   That sounds very logical to me, and seems like it should be a good idea, no? Well, no. The flaw is that it COMPLETELY relies on the plant producing the fuel to self-report it’s own production and testing results. Thus, you can say you produced good fuel, but really just produced junk. While I will agree it is better than nothing, there are many biodiesel plants that are not BQ9000 certified (in fact, more are not certified than are) that produce very high quality biodiesel that meets or exceeds the ASTM specification.

The other requirement is that the biodiesel be produced from soybean oil for a significant portion of the year (October through May, I believe). The idea behind this, I assume, is to ensure that the cold flow capability of the fuel is met such that the state can avoid fuel gelling problems during colder months. The problem with this is that even soybean oil can gel at lower temperatures if it is not made or blended correctly. We do make fuel from soybean oil, but soybean oil costs significantly more than waste vegetable oil (WVO) and does not guarantee that it will make better fuel. We have seen poorly made soybean oil based biodiesel gel at 40°F. We have also made WVO based biodiesel that was good to 9°F. Yes, 9°F.

So, of the eight biodiesel plants that existed in 2009, only four remain. And of those 4 plants, none of them produce biodiesel that is sold to the State of North Carolina under this contract. The fuel is being delivered by rail car from large companies in states that are large producers of soybeans and soybean oil. So, the state is paying more in freight than our typical per gallon profit is.

Sour grapes? Maybe, but as a tax payer I am not happy about my hard earned money going to another state when we have 4 suppliers that could have been making “green” fuel, supplying jobs, and making money right here in NC. Sheesh… What happened to the whole “Got to be NC” slogan?

New Jetta TDI at the plant, running Biodiesel, of course.

One of our employees took the plunge and bought a VW Jetta TDI a couple of weeks ago. It’s a 2006 model, with 59,000 miles on it, running petroleum diesel we assume. The car is in great shape, and he’s been running B20 in it for the first tank or two of fuel since he’s had it.

Brad will be posting his experiences with running biodiesel here on the blog. This makes three total VW TDI’s we have running biodiesel here at the plant. The other two TDI’s (a 2005 and 2004) have been running B100 for most of their lives, with no reported mechanical failures (fuel related) or fuel related issues. This goes right against what Volkswagen claims, that you can only run B5 or lower blends in their vehicles. These two vehicles now have over 100,000 miles each on them running straight biodiesel most of the time (We run high ratio Biodiesel at least when traveling out of state and no B100 available).

A Firefighter’s Guide to Biodiesel

After numerous articles in the media about small (and sometimes large) fires at biodiesel plants, most of the articles I read end up saying something about how the fire department was ill-prepared or unsure about what chemicals were in the plant and whether they were hazardous.  In some cases, they even questioned whether the biodiesel itself was hazardous.   I’m not a firefighting expert, nor a chemist, but I’m going to attempt to explain in layman’s terms what can be found at the typical biodiesel plant and a little bit about each.

  1. Vegetable Oil – Health:1, Fire:1, Reactivity:1. Any type oil, soybean, canola, waste vegetable.  These oils are non-hazardous, non-toxic, and non-flammable.  Flash point is well over 450°F.   Most biodiesel plants will store vegetable oil in bulk tanks, but it may also be found in 300 gal IBC totes.  Treat as oil fire.   Foam, dry chemical, CO2, or water if necessary.  Water on oil fires is a last resort, as it tends to spread the oil (and thus the fire), and in some cases can actually flash to steam and create a more dangerous situation.  Potential fire sources in biodiesel plants are caused by using electric heating elements directly exposed to vegetable oil with lack of stirring or overheating.
  2. Biodiesel – Health:1, Fire:1, Reactivity:1. Chemical name Mono-Alkyl Ester.  Non-hazardous, non-toxic, and non-flammable.  CAS Number 67784-80-9.  Flash point typically over 300°F.   Treat as oil fire.   Foam, dry chemical, CO2, or water if necessary.  Use water spray, fog or foam. Do not use water jet.  Water on oil fires is a last resort, as it tends to spread the oil (and thus the fire), and in some cases can actually flash to steam and create a more dangerous situation.  Disbursement into ravines or water sources can be immediately threatening to wildlife in some cases (oil film on water surface, oxygen reducer), but researchers at the University of Idaho noted that after leaving biodiesel in an aqueous solution for twenty-eight days, ninety-five percent of biodiesel was gone—completely degraded.   Potential fire sources in biodiesel plants are caused by using electric heating elements directly exposed to biodiesel with lack of stirring or overheating.  In certain cases (in process biodiesel production) methanol may be added to the biodiesel, reducing the flash point and making a hazardous material.
  3. Glycerin –  Health:1, Fire:1, Reactivity:0. Chemical name propane-1,2,3-triol.  CAS Number: 8043-29-6.  Pure glycerin is a non-flammable and non-hazardous material.  Depending upon the feestock and purity, it can contain methanol, lipids (vegetable oil), and water.  In these cases the material may be considered slightly hazardous and flammable.  It is slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant, permeator over long contact duration), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation.  Flash point for pure glycerin is 320°F, but methylated glycerin can be much lower.   Most biodiesel plans will have both raw (with methanol) and finished (pure or near pure) glycerin.  All but refined glycerin will have a brownish to dark black color and syrup like viscosity.   It may be stored in barrels, 300 gallon IBC totes, or in bulk tanks.   Treat as oil fire.   Foam, dry chemical, CO2, or water if necessary.  Use water spray, fog or foam. Do not use water jet.  Glycerin is heavier than water and runoff into ditches, streams, and ponds may not be immediately visible because the material may be on the bottom.
  4. Methanol Health:3, Fire:3, Reactivity:1.  Chemical name: Methyl Alcohol.  CAS Number: 67-56-1.   Methanol is highly flammable, toxic, and hazardous.  It burns with a light blue flame, almost invisible during daylight.   Flash point is 54°F.  Most biodiesel plants will have pure methanol.  It may be stored in barrels, 300 IBC gallon totes, or bulk tanks.  Treat as oil fire.   Foam, dry chemical, CO2, or water if necessary.  Use water spray, fog or foam. Do not use water jet.  All pumps and motors involved in production for methanol related materials should be explosion proof.
  5. Sodium Methoxide or Sodium Methylate –  Health:3, Fire:3, Reactivity:3.  CAS Number: 124-41-4.   Definitely the most dangerous material at a biodiesel plant.  Some biodiesel plants may use Potassium Methylate in addition or instead (treat similarly).  This material will be in liquid form, and has a clear, viscous appearance.  Flash point is 91°F.  Treat as oil fire.   Foam, dry chemical, CO2, or water if necessary.  Use water spray, fog or foam. Do not use water jet.   Highly flammable and autoignition possible in presence of moisture. Flammable in presence of open flames and sparks, or heat.   Most small to medium sized biodiesel plants have this in small quantities, usually stored in drums or 300 gal IBC totes.  Some larger plants will store this in bulk tanks, which are usually stainless steel.  This material is highly reactive, caustic, hazardous and toxic.  Avoid contact with skin, inhalation, and exposure to eyes.  Do not flush caustic residues to sewer. Residues from spills can be diluted with water, neutralized with diluted acid such as acetic and hydrochloric. Absorb neutralized caustic residues on clay, sand, vermiculite or other absorbent material and place in a chemical waste container for disposal.
  6. Sodium HydroxideHealth:3, Fire:1, Reactivity:2.  CAS number: 1310−73−2 100.  Some biodiesel plants may use Potassium Hydroxide in addition or instead (treat similarly).  Corrosive, causes severe burns.  This is a corrosive solid that has a physical appearance of white flakes or white granules.  It is highly toxic and hazardous.  It is commonly stored in drums and 55 lb plastic bags (like potting soil).  Most small to medium sized plants will have 2,000 to 10,000 lbs on hand at a time. Avoid contact with skin, inhalation, and exposure to eyes.   Sodium hydroxide is slightly toxic in the aquatic environment. The toxic effect on aquatic organism is due pH increasing.  It is soluble in water and degrades quickly.  Not considered a fire hazard; however, for large fire use powder, foam extinguishing agents or carbon dioxide. Avoid water use if possible. Adding water to caustic solution generates large amounts of heat and steam! Do not flush caustic residues to sewer. Residues from spills can be diluted with water, neutralized with diluted acid such as acetic and hydrochloric. Absorb neutralized caustic residues on clay, sand, vermiculite or other absorbent material and place in a chemical waste container for disposal.

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of materials found at biodiesel plants, it contains the primary components that nearly every biodiesel plant in the Unites States uses on a daily basis.  Our plant is located in the city of Wilson, NC and we regularly have visits and familiarization drills with the firefighters in the town to acquaint them with the materials we use in our plant, and where they are stored.  These drills become invaluable when the need arises in order to minimize the potential danger to the firefighters and the community should disaster strike.

Municipal Used Cooking Oil Curbside Collection Programs

This time of year we always see a surge in cities and counties contacting us to collect or receive their used cooking oil.   Many people these days deep fry their turkey for Thanksgiving.  It’s a quick, tasty way to cook a large turkey.   I’ll leave it to the culinary experts to tell you how to best fry and serve the turkey on this day, but I want to share a few tips and ideas about the grease that comes from this collective holiday ritual.

Turkey Fryer

Deep Frying a Turkey

It started for us about 3 years ago.  We had calls from several cities a few months before Thanksgiving asking us if we would accept their cooking oil.   We said yes.  For some municipalities, it even turned into a curbside collection program where the city would pickup your grease (in sealed containers) from your house during the normal trash pickup.   We started placing special collection bins at municipal and county waste collection locations.   Now, picking up used cooking oil from a government entity isn’t a simple and trivial process.  Most of them want a contract, which clearly states that we have insurance and other commitments to ensure that we will do what we say we’ll do, and transfer the liability to someone else if something bad happens.  That’s just the nature of today’s society and working with any government entity.

You will see these programs labeled as “Municipal Curbside Grease Collection Programs” or “WVO Recycling Programs”.  WVO (waste vegetable oil) and UCO (used cooking oil) can be used interchangeably and are often just stated as “grease” or “used oil”.   Many times you will see WVO collected at the city or county hazardous waste facility, even though technically WVO is not hazardous waste (it is food, after all).  Mostly they are put at hazmat collection sites because they don’t have anywhere else suitable to contain it, and those sites are used to handling liquids that can be a bit messy.

But why do these cities and counties want to sell me their grease?  It doesn’t pay that much.  In fact, the money we pay for the grease probably barely pays to offset the fuel and labor it takes to pick the oil up and transport it back to the recycling site  (although we do sell biodiesel back at a discount to some which further enhances the savings).

FOG

FOG in a Sewer Pipe

No, the real reason is FOG.  Not the London type, it stands for Fats, Oils, and Greases.   It’s nasty stuff.  It happens when people pour grease down their drains or in the sewer.  Fats, oils and greases that are liquids at high temperatures cool and become solids. When they cool, it clogs up the drains or sewers, and creates backup issues that can create huge financial problems for people and businesses when their business or street floods with water and sewer.   It’s nasty, it’s costly, and it’s a potential health concern.

There’s a special kind of truck, maybe you’ve seen them, called a “Jetter” that’s used to clean up this mess.  These highly specialized trucks have a pumping system similar to a fire truck that uses very high pressure hot water to clear out the drain.  In some cases, actually sucking the muck out into another tank so it can be dumped at a proper waste handling facility that is designed to process fats and oils.    It’s a nasty job worthy of a “Dirty Jobs” episode all by itself (in fact, they did a sewer clean out episode, I think).

So really, the entire “UCO Recycling program” is to prevent FOG.  It saves labor, time, and money, and it prevents very costly and potentially catastrophic sewer backups.  Plus, the city or county is improving their recycling program and benefits by looking “green”.  In some cases they actually are “green” because the biodiesel we produce from those oils is sold back to that group as biodiesel, which is used in their trucks and buses to reduce diesel exhaust emissions.

So in effect, the turkey you fry this Thanksgiving not only tastes good, it’s potentially helping to provide cleaner air for the city and county you live in.  That’s something to be pretty thankful for indeed.

For more information about turkey frying and what to do with the grease after, we like the fact sheet provided by the Hampton Roads, VA FOG education committee.  See it here:  http://www.fatfreedrains.com/downloads/factsheet_TurkeyFrying09.pdf

Jetter

A Jetter Truck Cleans Out Sewers

Here’s how to recycle your cooking grease after frying:
  • After frying your turkey (or whatever), cover the cooker with the lid and allow it to cool for several hours, or until the temperature is at least below 110°F.
  • If possible, find the original container the oil came in. These containers are usually plastic with a screw on top and are perfect for storing oil. Otherwise, find a suitable container that can hold the oil in an airtight and spill proof manner.
  • Using a funnel, pour the oil into the container, getting as much as possible from the fryer into the container. Seal the container with the lid, and if necessary, use electrical tape or masking tape around the lid to ensure the lid will not come off accidentally. IMPORTANT: Label the container as “Used Cooking Oil” on several sides in permanent marker.
  • With paper towels, wipe the inside of the fryer to get any residual oil and fryer bits, and wipe off any excess around the fryer oil container that may have spilled during transfer. Discard the paper towels in your trash. Some people burn them in the fireplace as kindling, but we don’t necessarily recommend that because it’s messy and can create an oily smoke that is not healthy to breathe.
  • If your city has a curbside collection program, you may need to contact them in advance and tell them you have grease to pick up. Some cities have a minimum amount to pickup, so ask. Otherwise, place at your curbside where it will be seen during your normal trash or recycling pickup.
  • If you don’t have curbside pickup, simply take it to your city or county recycling or hazardous waste facility for recycling there. You can also drop it off at our facility in Wilson if that’s convenient (see our contact page on our website for a map).

Don’t throw that grease away! It can be recycled and used to help make diesel fumes less toxic to our air!

Biodiesel Myth #9 – Biodiesel Will Gel Up My Tank or My Engine

In a multi-part series about biodiesel, this is one of several articles in an attempt to dispel the myths about biodiesel and it’s use in commercial and private diesel engines.

Myth #9 – Biodiesel Will Gel Up My Tank or My Engine in Winter

Most likely, no.  While it’s true the biodiesel has a higher gel point than diesel fuel, the fact is that both petroleum diesel and biodiesel will gel if it gets cold enough.   If it’s not very cold, biodiesel will not gel up at all.

Biodiesel responds to anti-gel treatments in much the same manner as petroleum diesel.  By adding compounds that inhibit wax formations to accumulate, the fuel in effect remains liquid instead of gelling (or waxing) as the temperature decreases.

The temperature at which untreated biodiesel gels is variable, just like it is with untreated petroleum diesel.  The common temperature at which most people will say untreated diesel will begin to gel is 12°F.   The common temperature at which most people agree biodiesel will begin to gel, although it’s largely based upon feedstock so we’re going to assume soy biodiesel, is 30°F.   Adding anti-gel compounds significantly lowers that temperature in both fuels.

Cold Flow Additives Help Any Fuel Blend in Winter

Further, in winter time, diesel fuel not only has anti-gel additives in it, it usually is mixed with #1 Diesel (kerosene) in colder climates.  Kerosene is a light fuel oil, which has a gel point of -30°F.  Adding it in a 1/20 ratio to biodiesel or a biodiesel blend will further winterize your fuel.   However, for most temperate climates, it’s not necessary.  Regular B20 biodiesel (with #2 winter diesel) will work just fine down to about  -5°F.   Always make sure your diesel (and biodiesel) fuel has been winterized in cold weather months, and it wouldn’t hurt to add it yourself just to be sure.  It beats being stranded on the side of the road.

What do you do if the fuel has already gelled in your tank?

You wake up on the morning to go to work and your vehicle will not start.  Your fuel has gelled in the tank overnight.  What do you do?   The time proven remedy is to add a gallon of kerosene for each 10 to 20 gallons of fuel to the tank, then allow it to sit long enough for the kerosene to diffuse into the fuel.  In weather below -20 degrees F, one gallon of kerosene for 10 gallons of fuel will keep things moving, but fuel economy will be reduced because kerosene has a lower BTU value per gallon than #2 diesel fuel.   Block heaters and tank heaters are also added in severe climates to help ensure fuel is flowing.    Store your vehicle in a garage if possible.

For more information, visit the NBB website at http://www.biodiesel.org/pdf_files/fuelfactsheets/COLD_BIOGenrlFactShtNOSOY.pdf.


Diesel Electric Hybrids Not New

Diesel engines have often been derided as loud and foul smelling in the United States, but in Europe diesels have long been popular. Over the past five years, a new generation of clean cars has emerged, and the newest iterations are only getting better. Next year, Peugeot and Mercedes will introduce the first diesel-hybrid vehicles to the mass market. Volvo and Peugeot will follow suit with plug-in versions in 2012 and 2014.

But, they won’ t be available here in the US.  At least, they won’t without a significant overhaul to the US EPA’s Air Emissions policy for Cars and Light Trucks in the United States (Oh, and don’t forget our friends at the CARB).   The EPA puts such onerous restrictions on diesel air emissions and engine testing, most foreign manufacturers won’t bother to jump through the hoops to export them to the USA.  Only Mercedes, VW, and Audi do that.  We’re missing out on dozens of other small, efficient, diesel powered cars that could run circles around a Prius in terms of MPG.

Diesel Electric Hybrids are not new.  Locomotives have been using the technology for over 60 years.   In a Diesel-electric train, the

The FIRST Diesel-Electric Hybrid

Diesel engine drives an electrical generator whose output provides power to the traction motors. There is no mechanical connection between the engine and the wheels.  This is a critical difference between diesel-electric trains and hybrid cars, as the engine is used to drive the wheels when the batteries become exhausted.

We want diesel-electric hybrid.  They are a proven technology, and instead of getting 40-50 MPG as in a Prius or Insight, you can realize MPG rates of 70-80 MPG.  Couple that with a biodiesel powered engine, and you would have a Very Low Emissions vehicle that could have incredible range.

Instead of forcing auto-makers to make internal combustion engines more and more complicated, requiring additional systems to increase efficiency and reduce emissions, why not just modify the fuels and the technology to something that already exists?  Are you listening EPA?   Simply switching to biodiesel will reduce the air emissions, and using diesel-electric hybrids would increase the range dramatically.  Imagine a small 3 cylinder diesel that would run at 1800 RPM (a very efficient range for diesel motors) that would sip fuel at .25 to .40 gallons per hour while generating the power needed to run the car and charge batteries?

Or, to put it more simply, why don’t the EPA and CARB accept a car that is certified to meet the air emissions requirements in Europe and Asia (which are far more densely populated and environmentally sensitive in many cases)?  If it’s good enough to meet their stringent air quality requirements, it should be good enough here.    Or am I missing something?

Diesel Electric Train Diagram

As an example of what we could get today, if the market would allow it: Volkswagen says their Golf TDI Hybrid consumes 3.4 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers, which is about 71.4 mpg. That’s better than the gas-electric Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid by better than 20 mpg.

VW Golf TDI Hybrid Electric Car

Biodiesel Myth #8 – Biodiesel Emissions Are No Better Than Regular Diesel

In a multi-part series about biodiesel, this is one of several articles in an attempt to dispel the myths about biodiesel and it’s use in commercial and private diesel engines.

Myth #8 – Biodiesel Emissions Are No Better Than Regular Diesel

Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that has completed all the testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. Biodiesel contains oxygen and it burns more completely than diesel fuel, resulting in reduced emissions. All major pollutants are reduced dramatically in biodiesel exhaust (most of them at least 50% for B100), except one—nitrogen oxides (NOx)—and that’s only for blends over B20 (see my post on the subject).  In fact, NOx emissions from biodiesel increase or decrease depending on the engine family and testing procedures. NOx emissions (a contributing factor in the localized formation of smog and ozone) from pure (100%) biodiesel increase on average by 10 percent.  However, biodiesel’s lack of sulfur allows the use of NOx control technologies that cannot be used with conventional diesel. Additionally, some companies have successfully developed additives to reduce NOx emissions in biodiesel blends.  In fact, in certain independent studies using more modern engines than the EPA study have shown that biodiesel use actually reduced NOx emissions.

The most common report when users switch to biodiesel is the noticeable decrease in diesel smoke (the black, sooty clouds). B20 reduces air toxics (the most damaging pollutants for human health) by 20-40%, while B100 reduces them by as much as 90%. Sulfur oxides and sulfates (major contributors to acid rain) are almost completely eliminated. The only caveat is that nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions can increase up to 10% with B100. If you would like to evaluate this for yourself, see the National Biodiesel Board’s emissions fact sheet.

New diesel technology like the Mercedes BlueTec and the 2009 Jetta TDI eliminate this problem by reducing NOx emissions by 80-90%.

All-in-all, biodiesel offers such a substantial reduction in emissions that it’s frequently used in sensitive areas like national parks and marine habitats. School districts all over the country have also turned to biodiesel as a way to reduce children’s’ exposure to toxic diesel exhaust.