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Dec 04

Biodiesel banned in Texas

Posted in Biodiesel Fuel | Energy Economy | Energy Industry | Energy Politics

Texas BiodieselCome December 31st, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is set to effectively ban biodiesel in the state’s largest markets. The problem, they say, lies with the fuel’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and their contribution to the formation of ground-level ozone in Texas’ eastern counties. According to the TCEQ, biodiesel does not meet the stricter NOx standards recently imposed on diesel and alternative diesel fuels under new regulations. Efforts to clean up the air, led the TCEQ in November 2005 to adopt Texas low emission diesel standards (TxLED) in an effort to reduce pollutants in the state’s smoggiest 110 counties. Texas’ biodiesel industry – the largest in the country – suddenly found itself essentially outlawed after the standards went into effect.

Industry officials banded together to form the Biodiesel Coalition of Texas (BCOT) and convinced the TCEQ to give them a one year reprieve to resolve the NOx issues. The end of that period is fast approaching and despite the best efforts of BCOT and results from a recent study conducted by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab showing biodiesel to have negligible NOx emissions, the TCEQ seems ready to enact the ban come 2007.

The ban is not iron-clad. Producers of biodiesel and biodiesel additives can have their products approved for use at any time after the start of the year, if independent testing shows that their NOx emissions are low enough to meet the TxLED standards.

Still many in the Texas biodiesel industry are confused and irked by the TCEQ’s approach to the issue. They say, at a time when other state environmental agencies are increasingly promoting biodiesel as a clean, non-toxic, renewable and home-grown alternative to petroleum diesel, the TCEQ’s transfixion on the NOx issue will smother Texas’ burgeoning biodiesel industry.

The TCEQ’s stance on biodiesel is predicated, in large part, on a 2002 EPA study that found that B20 blends (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent petro diesel) on average, emit two percent more NOx emissions than TxLED. The Biodiesel Coalition of Texas has serious doubts about the test’s findings, and maintains that the fuel’s emissions of nitrogen oxides are no higher than those of TxLED.

Recent testing by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) seems to validate BCOT’s position. The study finds fault with the testing methods used in the 2002 EPA study. Lead author, Robert McCormick explains, about 45 percent of the data in their data set were for one engine model, an engine model that happens to show a small NOx increase. Results can vary widely based on the feedstock, engine type and testing methods being used. McCormick, who is the NREL’s Principal Engineer for non-petroleum based fuels research, notes that in analyzing test data it’s important not to weigh any one engine too heavily, which, in the case of the EPA study, may have skewed its results.

In addition to pointing out problems with the EPA’s testing methods, the NREL study conducted NOx tests of its own while also performing a comprehensive review of recent studies on the subject. In its study, 8 heavy duty vehicles were assessed using B20 fuel. Some vehicles emitted a slightly higher percentage of NOx, while others yielded lower NOx. Taken together, “Biodiesel, appears to cause no change in NOx emissions, reports McCormick. In other words, NOx emissions were neither higher nor lower than those of TxLED. For B20, the review of recent studies revealed, substantial reductions in emissions in particulate matter, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons and on average, no change in emissions of NOx.

When asked about the recent NREL study, the TCEQ said that it was evaluating the findings but had not made a decision as to whether the study would alter their position. They did however note that, The type of test procedures used for these recent NREL tests are not used by the EPA or the TCEQ for heavy-duty diesel engine emissions testing. The TCEQ will only accept tests conducted in a laboratory on stand-alone engines. McCormick contends that the NREL, can do engine testing too but we chose to test vehicles because, it reflects real-world conditions and, we feel like that’s a lot more realistic. He goes on to remark, “I don’t think the EPA folks would say that vehicle-testing data is of a lower quality than the engine-testing data.

Rudy Smaling, program director of the New Technology Research and Development (NTRD) project, says the EPA has even made some statements in the past suggesting that the ozone forming potential of biodiesel is less than it is for petro diesel. The NTRD is a state-wide project that helps to identify, test and evaluate new technologies that can reduce emissions. Both Smaling and McCormick believe more studies need to be conducted.

As much scientific debate as there is over biodiesel’s NOx emissions, there may actually be more over NOx emissions from ethanol. Like biodiesel, the official verdict is out as to whether low levels of ethanol blended with gasoline emit more NOx than without it. Ethanol makes up a substantially larger portion of the fuel supply (almost all of our gasoline contains 10 percent ethanol), forcing some to wonder why the TCEQ has not looked at ethanol as closely as it has biodiesel. According to Smaling, it soon might. “If states are going to consider outlawing biodiesel because of the NOx increase,” Smaling warns, “then they’ll definitely want to consider doing the same thing with ethanol.”

While the biodiesel industry hopes and waits for the TCEQ to withdraw its impending restrictions, some additive companies are rushing to have their product certified by the state to provide a means for the fuel producers to continue conducting business after the end of the year. An emission testing is not cheap, with costs in some cases running over $100,000 per product.

The TCEQ, by way of its New Technology Research and Development (NTRD) program, has provided funding for 15 biodiesel related projects to be tested. Two of the projects have completed their testing. GTAT California’s Viscon additive received approval in September of 2005, only to have it rescinded some months later after it failed under different testing protocols. Another additive produced by Clean Diesel Technologies narrowly missed being approved according to the TCEQ’s Morris Brown. More than half of the projects never made it to the final testing phase because grantees did not meet certain obligations. Another six proposals are currently under review according to the TCEQ. Seemingly all of the proposals involve the use of an additive, which according to the BCOT are not effective at reducing NOx and only add to the cost of the fuel.

If the TCEQ goes ahead with its ban, to stay in business producers will have to either ship their fuel out of state or use an as of yet uncertified additive to lower their fuel’s NOx emissions. Speaking for the industry, BCOT president, Jim Karlak says, For us to transport biodiesel from where we are located, to outside of the 110 counties, which essentially means outside of the state of Texas, would be a dramatic margin hit to all the producers and I’m not certain we could afford that hit. Karlak is also CEO of SMS Envirofuels, a biodiesel production company located in San Antonio. The ban would force him to dramatically reduce production and ship his fuel out of state, placing SMS Envirofuels at a competitive disadvantage to producers located outside of Texas.

Here in Houston, Chris Powers of Houston Biodiesel has had to put off plans of expanding his business. Powers says he wants to put in 12 more biodiesel pumps around the city, but is awaiting TCEQ’s decision before moving forward. If the ban is enacted, he will scrap the expansion plans. As for the single pump at Houston Biodiesel, Powers say he will have to transition from selling a B99 blend to B100. The TCEQ does not recognize B100 as a transportation fuel and has no authority over its use. By switching, he says he will lose the 99 cent per gallon blending credit that has helped keep his prices competitive with petro diesel. Loss of the credit would mean a severe loss to his customer base. “I’d be priced out of business,” says Powers.

» Author: Charles Stillman

  • Cory Schwarzkopf

    WOW, big oil strikes again! Even “if” bio has slighty higher NOx than regular diesel, isn’t the homegrown aspect of it better for America (and Texas) in the long run? How about the no sulfur content in bio diesel?

  • Air Breather

    Let me get this straight: Biodiesel emissions are “negligible,” but it’s gonna be banned anyway?


    Sounds suspiciously like the real reason is it offers competition to big oil.

  • Jahnie Marzan

    It is sad to note that BIO-FUELS (bio-ethanol & bio-diesel) are nothing but a petrol-base fuel ADDITIVES.

    Bio-fuels could be a misnomer in terms of finding/formulating a genuine, bio,eco and/or environment-friendly fuel — possibly, a renewable source of an energy. — it’s a misnomer indeed to come-up with an alternative energy that the same would contain inorganic petrol-base (methanol & ethanol) and acidic-toxic Sodium Potassium Hydroxide Catalytic Reactants, that could lead to corrosion and damage on engine parts.

    Bio-diesel is just for mixture at 5%-20% to petro-diesel, If it goes beyond 10-percent or 20-percent use, it will not be good for the vehicle. We cannot use 100 percent (B100) of coco fuel in the engine, according to Usec. Eduardo Maalac, former Usec., of the Department of Energy, now is the President of PNOC. Thursday, March 11, 2004 @10:12 PM GMT 12-Baguio testing use of coconut fuel Ecology.

    Petroleum Based Fuel Adulteration:
    On the product Standardization of Petrol-Fuel Oils, International Trade Standard Specification, the general requirement stipulates “The fuel oil specified herein shall be hydrocarbon oils FREE from INORGANIC ACIDS and FOREIGN MATTER.”

    Bio-ethanol is just a mixture of 10% ethanol & 90% petro-gasoline. It would not be good also for the engine if the mixture would go beyond 35% because it will eat-up the rubber and plastic parts of the engine, thus increases the engine temperature.
    Gasoline and MTBE

    What does MTBE do?
    MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) is classified by the EPA as a ‘possible human carcinogen’ Despite extensive testing the real effects of MTBE are not entirely known. While 20 public drinking water wells in California are no longer producing water because of MTBE contamination, the levels of MTBE that were required to induce cancer in laboratory conditions is 20,000 to 40,000 times higher than the levels that have been discovered.

    How does MTBE get into the water supply?

    Biodiesel Drawbacks
    Biodiesel can cause some problems. For example:
    Gelling Temperature: Biodiesel gels at a higher temperature (32 degrees) than standard #2 diesel (-15 degrees). This isn’t a problem with biodiesel petro-diesel blends of 20% or less (B20 – B2) but it makes the use of B100 unworkable in a commercial vehicle.

    Lower BTU Rating: A study done by the University of North Dakota indicated that, while there are significant fluctuations, #2 diesel contains about 140,000 BTUs per gallon while B100 contains about 130,000 BTUs. (B20 contains 138,000 BTUs.)

    Higher Nitrogen Oxide Emissions: Since biodiesel contains no nitrogen, the increase in NOx emissions is probably due to the higher cetane rating and the high oxygen content of biodiesel. These two qualities are thought to cause the nitrogen contained in the air to be converted into NOx during combustion.

    Higher Solvent Properties: Because biodiesel acts as a solvent it’s likely, when used in an engine that ran previously on petro-diesel, that any sediment in the fuel system might be washed into the engine’s filters and fuel injectors. Rubber gaskets and hoses will also degrade at a higher rate. This means that filters will need to be changed within 1000 miles of changing to a biodiesel blend and the hoses and gaskets will eventually need to be changed to something that doesn’t react to biodiesel; like Flourenated Viton.

    Methanol is intoxicating but not directly poisonous. It is toxic by its breakdown (toxication) by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase in the liver by forming formic acid and formaldehyde which cause blindness by destruction of the optic nerve. [3] Methanol ingestion can also be fatal due to its CNS depressant properties in the same manner as ethanol poisoning. It enters the body by ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin. Fetal tissue will not tolerate methanol. Dangerous doses will build up if a person is regularly exposed to vapors or handles liquid without skin protection. If methanol has been ingested, a doctor should be contacted immediately.

    Since January 1, 2004, California’s gasoline has been blended with ethanol instead of MTBE (methyl-tertiary butyl ether) as an oxygenate to help the gas burn more cleanly. During the summer of 2006, other states are also changing to MTBE-free gasoline because of the problems that additive has caused in water supplies. As the rest of the country makes this transition from MTBE for the first time, competition for valuable gasoline blend stocks could raise the cost of making gasoline in California and the rest of the country.

    Looming Petroleum Crisis Solution Found in Cebu, Philippines!

    In an effort to realize this long overdue alternative clean and renewable source of eco-dynamics energization, a Cebuano vegetable energy expert was asked by the Arroyo Administration to produce his 1976 invention.

    Everybody is welcome to visit:

  • Alt Energy

    First of all, you should note that the issue here is increased NOx emissions measured from engines burning B20 biodiesel. Nitrogen oxides contribute to ground-level ozone formation, smog, acid rain, and respiratory irritation. The EPA also lists them as greenhouse gasses.

    By “effectively ban” does the article mean ban or ban under certain conditions or ban?

    The article is fair in pointing out that the tests done so far have been too limited, but you miss the mark by focusing only on the economic side of the issue.

  • Jahnie Marzan

    Ahhhh, you mean NOX? Do you know why bio-diesel produces Nitrous Oxide? Ok!

    FATTY ACID METHYL ESTER [FAME] IFICATION or Trans [ester] ification

    In organic chemistry, transesterification is the process of exchanging the alkoxy
    group of an ester compound by another alcohol. These reactions are often
    catalyzed by the addition of an acid or base.

    Rancidification is the decomposition of fats and other lipids by hydrolysis and/or
    oxidation. Hydrolysis will split fatty acid chains away from the glycerol backbone
    in glycerides. These free fatty acids can then undergo further auto-oxidation.
    Oxidation primarily occurs with unsaturated fats by a free radical-mediated process.

    Redox (Redirected from Oxidation)

    Redox reactions include all chemical processes in which atoms have their oxidation
    number (oxidation state) changed.

    This can be a simple redox process, such as the oxidation of carbon to yield carbon
    dioxide, it could be the reduction of carbon by hydrogen to yield methane (CH4), or
    a complex process such as the oxidation of sugar in the human body, through a
    series of very complex electron transfer processes.

    The term redox comes from the two concepts of reduction and oxidation. It can be
    explained in simple terms:

    Oxidation describes the loss of an electron by a molecule, atom or ion
    Reduction describes the gain of an electron by a molecule, atom or ion

    Combustion of hydrocarbons, e.g. in an internal combustion engine, produces water,
    carbon dioxide, some partially oxidized forms such as carbon monoxide and heat
    energy. Complete oxidation of materials containing carbon produces carbon dioxide.

    ERGO! Bio-diesel made from ESTERIFICATION could do harm on this MUNDANE world.

    GOD always forgives,
    Man sometimes forgives,
    Nature will never-ever forgives.
    SHE always remember forever.

    What this so-called modern-mundane world greatest needs, WITNESSES, not just preachers!

  • jason burroughs

    TCEQ has extended the “ban” until january 1st, 2008, officially. You can contact them to find out more information.

  • gnomic

    Texas has some of the worst pollution in the US and they ban a Green fuel source because of NOX? Give me a break! The benzine in the water, the toxic Houston smog, the brownfields and leaking oil wells, and they are worried about Biodiesel?!! This is just a thinly veiled attempt by the TX oil industry to protect their profits. The irony is that it will result in more pollution from using gas. What fools!

  • Jeffery Haas

    Have there been any new developments or is the ban going to stay? I warned everyone this might happen if Perry got re-elected, but Nooooooooo, everyone had to pretend things would be okay.
    PS: I notice that Biowillie is no longer available at the Love’s station at US67 and 287.

    Nice going.

  • John

    Hmmm! I’ve been reading all this and would like to put my two-cents-worth in… I’ve done alot of reading on Biodiesel. Pretty much all emissions are greatly reduced when switching to Biodiesel (most emissions are at least 60% less with Biodiesel) and I do mean B100. Petroleum diesel isn’t carbon-neutral like Biodiesel. Biodiesel is made primarily from vegetable oil and when burned the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is re-absorbed by the next crop planted to produce more vegetable oil. Petroleum diesel on the other hand is made from crude oil that was produced from plant and animal remains that has been stored in the earths crust for millions of years. When crude oil products are burned as fuel they add to the greenhouse effect because the carbon in the carbon dioxide released was stored from millions of years ago not absorbed by plants 6 months or a year ago as with Biodiesel. And unlike to plants grown to produce vegetable oil the carbon dioxide from petroleum diesel is not being re-absorbed back into crude oil in the earths crust is it. Looks like big oil is harping on maybe the one emission that biodiesel may in some instances be a little higher. What about the 80-90% particulate reduction when burning Biodiesel among the other reduced emissions? Biodiesel is also biodegradable. You could practically drink Biodiesel although it would probably not taste too good. Also if your Biodiesel was made from waste vegetable oil say from a fast food joint your exhaust would likely smell like french fries!! How cool is that?

  • genealogist

    But just driving a biodiesel vehicle in the state isn’t outlawed .. is it?

  • matthew

    NREL says Biodiesel may NOT increase NoX after all!

    One of the ongoing issues mentioned with Biodiesel has been a suspected increase in NoX emmissions. Now the NREL says wait a minute. The reality is probably closer to this new study. It is either neutral or better than dino Diesel.

    Biodiesel May Not Increase Nitrogen Oxides Emissions, Doe Lab Finds Extensive testing at an energy department laboratory contradicts the widely held belief that burning biodiesel produces more nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions than traditional diesel, a top lab official reported May 9 at a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) conference in Washington, D.C.

    Air regulators and environmental groups have been slow to embrace biodiesel, a renewable fuel that substantially lowers hydrocarbon and particulate matter emissions, because of concern over increases in NOx emissions, a major contributor to ground-level ozone. Indeed, an emissions fact sheet on the website for the national voice of the U.S. biodiesel industry, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), states that NOx emissions increase by 2 percent for B-20 (a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel). But the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) fuels performance manager, Wendy Clark, said that after exhaustive testing of biodiesel emissions on two 40-foot urban transit buses, NOx emissions were comparable to the buses’ diesel-fuel emissions. In other words, they found no increase in NOx emissions.

    The dynamometer testing was carried out at NREL’s facilities in Golden, CO. The tests on two different buses burning B-20 were repeated because the initial results were so surprising, Clark told the SAE conference participants.

    Clark also suggested the biodiesel market could grow to 125 million gallons in 2006, from the less than 30 million gallons used in 2004. The number could rise to 1.7 billion gallons by 2015 if the current, high diesel prices are sustained, Clark added. In addition to lowering PM and hydrocarbon emissions, biodiesel, which is made from vegetable oils, also has superior lubricity properties.

    If oil companies embrace biodiesel as a lubricity additive and blend it at a 1 percent concentration in ultra-low-sulfur diesel, it could mean a 450 million-gallon market. If an energy bill containing a so-called renewable fuels mandate becomes law, Clark predicts it would mean as much as a 900 million-gallon market. Refiners would be looking for ways to meet the renewable fuels mandate without having to invest in new and expensive refinery capacity needed to blend ethanol, the only other viable renewable fuel. Current fuel ethanol production is approximately 3.7 billion gallons annually.

    While less than 30 million gallons of biodiesel were consumed last year in the U.S., there is production capacity for another 140 million gallons. Also, Clark said, there is another 100 million gallons of new plant capacity in the development stage, and agricultural processing giant and leading U.S. ethanol producer Archer Daniels Midland is poised to enter the market. They already have two 30 million-gallon biodiesel plants in Germany.

    Biodiesel, which can be made from most vegetable oils as well as waste cooking oils, is sulfur free and, according to the NBB website, a B-20 blend reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 20 percent, carbon monoxide emissions by 12 percent, and particulate matter emissions by 12 percent. Clark said the cost is about 15 cents per gallon more than traditional diesel fuel.

    Biodiesel is not without its own set of problems. Engine manufacturers are reluctant to allow warranty coverage for anything more than a 5-percent blend of the renewable fuel. They are concerned biodiesel will degrade engine fuel system components. German automaker Volkswagen recently announced that its warranties would cover B-5, and officials said it was likely the company would extend this to B-20 in the future.

    There have also been challenges in establishing biodiesel specifications, and even problems with blending proportions. A recent survey by NREL found a significant amount of improper blending, Clark said. In many of the samples of B-20 taken from around the U.S., the amount of biodiesel was far outside the 18 percent to 22 percent acceptable range.

    There are no established scientific tests used by biodiesel distributors to determine biodiesel purity. They “use only visual testing, if it looks clear and bright they accept the sample, Clark reported. Finally, the energy content of biodiesel is less than that of diesel – about 10 percent for neat biodiesel and 2 to 3 percent for B-20.

    Robb Barnitt
    National Renewable Energy Laboratory
    Golden, CO

  • Imran


    Currently, I live near the Houston, Tx area. Could some one please email me with information in regards to using Biodiesel or Ethanol in Texas? Specifically, I am looking for people in the Houston area who are currently using Biodiesel and/or Ethanol and could walk me through the steps needed such that I could start using alternative energy.

    Thank you.

  • Keith

    It seems to me, all of the BS with the oil etc has been man made shortage …
    Just another means to separate our money from us, to make all of us except those in control richer. We were lied to in the 70’s and the oil companies got rich as it is today ..

    It seems like the big oil men (Washington) are sticking it to us again, (or hosing us). I don’t believe Washington DC with the immigration law that is in the Senate and not the President.

    We have spent billions overseas, and no account for it … the same is also true here in the USA. I as a taxpayer and consumer I have had it … what happened to the protests of the 60’s why can’t it be done now … let Washington know we are mad and not taking it any more. Same with the oil companies …. have they given us the slip or they are just to oily to handle.

  • Mike

    I was furious to find this ban on Bio-Desiel. However B100 is NOT under this restriction. TCEQ has no authority to regulate individuals. B100 does not however have government backing to make it economically feasible to bring to market in a fueling station. I looked into the appointment of the Committee here in Texas. The Chairman, Kathleen Hartnett White is obviously a political drone who has ties back to Nancy Reagan. Larry R. Soward is a lawyer practicing environmental law I don’t know yet which side he would represent. He has a 29 year history of appointments as commissioner on various committees, which would afford him some extraordinary talents in circumventing the Legislative Directive of TCEQ. Prior to his appointment to the TCEQ, Garcia served as Texas’ deputy secretary of state. H. S. Buddy Garcia He also served as senate liaison for the governor’s office and as a special assistant to the governor on Texas border affairs with Mexico. He has also received high awards from the Mexican Government(member of OPEC). To say the least I am doubtful of each one of these individuals. I smell a political RAT.

  • Soylent

    Sour grapes.

    I remember “environmentalists” cheering as catalytic converters became mandatory, even for vehicles which already met the new emissions requirements(even if you found a better solution you were still legally required to use a catalytic converter.)

  • Biorunner

    I own a 06 Jeep Liberty with a diesel engine. I have been using B100 that I produce in my garage for over a year now with no problems. It feels good to be out of the grip of Big Oil and off the petroleum teet.

  • Alejandro

    That’s teat, just FYI.

    Funny how things turn around. Check out this story about the nations’s newest, most massive biodiesel plant in the Lone Star State:

    Florida will build a big one in Winter Park FL.

    Keep up the good fight. Your children’s lives, and their children’s children’s lives depend on it.

  • Will

    What everyone seems to be missing is the fact that we can’t support our oil/gas demands on this biofuel (even if it is switchgrass) in this country. Even if all agricultural land was used for biofuel, were only talking like 15% of the demand. If we use all that for ethanol, we have to import MORE crops to feed our livestock so we can go on eating meats–polluting our world even more. Theres not enough land OR crop in the world to produce enough ethanol to support the gas-guzzling USA without starving a handful of countries.

    NOX emissions shouldn’t even be the issue. There are plenty of reasons not to use biofuel anyway. It is just not a viable substitute for gasoline. The biofuels have no carbon emissions, but they do have a net energy loss. It takes more energy to convert FOOD into FUEL than there is energy in that fuel. We deal with energy loss constantly, but this new fuel is a new low in efficiency.

  • Just Watching

    Don’t worry about biofuel. There is not enough water to grow fuel and food at the same time. Also most of us farmers are about 60 years old now. You young kids better start thinking and get started doing.

  • Dick

    I am amazed at the type of negative comments seen above. Not enough land, not enough water, not enough crops. Let’s look at this from a couple of view points.

    First, according to the US Dept of Commerce, YTD thru April 2008, the US has imported about 9.3 million barrels of crude oil every day. Annually, that comes to about 3.3 billion barrels of crude oil. Based on US DOC figures, most of that crude comes from the Middle East or Russia. This crude oil costs us (you and me) about $140/barrel (and it’s only going up) or about $462 billion/year. Where does the money go? It mostly goes to the Middle East and Russia – some of our best international friends. We can all read the newspapers. We know what the money is spent on – multi million dollar palaces, yatchs, private 747 jet planes, fleets of Mercedes Benz & Rolls Royce limos, jet-setting life styles for all the royal princes. The Russian oil money goes to the Russian Mafia. Oh, yeah, the money also goes to support international terrorism, like 9/11, Isreali suicide bombers, bombs in Madrid, London, Bali, Beruit, etc., etc. We’re getting a real bang for our buck.

    $462 billion is a tremendous drain on the US economy. The US buys more from other countries than we sell to them. Paying for crude oil is a huge part of it. News reports over the past few weeks have talked about the weakness of the US Dollar. This means that it takes more dollars to buy things overseas. $462 billion is also about 20% of the federal budget. This is $462 billion that can’t be paid out to American workers. My economist friends tell me that every dollar spent on payroll generates about $5 – $6 in economic activity. That $462 billion would create an additional $2.5 trillion in economic activity every year. That’s about 18% of the total US economy. That’s not chump change.

    If the US made a commitment to biofuels similar to the commitment made by JFK in May 1961 to land men on the moon by the end of the decade (a commitment satisfied on July 20, 1969 by Appollo 11), I think we can replace all of the crude oil imported for fuel by the year 2020.

    Not enough land? The land area of the US is about 3.5 million square miles or 2.3 billion acres. A 2004 study at the University of New Hampshire estimated that it would take about 15,000 square miles or 9.6 million acres to produce enough biodiesel (about 140 billion gallons) from algae to replace all the fuel used for cars and trucks in the US every year. This represents about 1/2 of one percent (.005%) of the total land in the US. This is only 16% of the total urban land. FYI, about 1.7 million square miles is used for agricultural purposes.

    Not enough water? Each year, according to the a United Nations report, the US uses about 49 trillion gallons of water. 6.3 trillion gallons of that is for domestic use and the bulk of that water goes into sewers for treatment. We could easily divert 20% of that sewer water to biofuel production. This would eliminate the strains on the sewer system and would produce cleaner water. In addition, there are strains of algae that thrive in salt and brackish water.

    Not enough crops? The best land crops for biofuel are things like palm, cocnut, and rapeseed. These annually yield about 508 gallons per acres (gpa), 230 gpoa, and 102 gpa, respectiely. To get 140 billion gallons of bio diesel would require about 260 million acres. This would use a significant portion of available agricultural cropland and put significant strain on resources used for food production. However, using algae, with yields approaching 100,000 gpa, the requirement is only 1.4 million acres, and the land would not be taken from agricultural uses, but from low value land near urban areas (for easy access to the sewer water that would provide the feed stock).

    There are environmental reasons to use biofuels. Petroleum based fuels (called Dino fuel) are made from plants that grew hundreds of millions of years ago. The carbon contained in those plants was sequestered. By burning petroleum, we release that carbon in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas. We’ve all heard about global warming. Carbon dioxide is the largest component of the greenhouse gases (so called because, like a greenhouse, the CO2 traps heat in the air, raising its temperature). Biofuels are carbon neutral – they release CO2, but the carbon released today was pulled from the atmosphere by plants (or algae) a very short time before (weeks or months, at most).

    In addition, biofuels are lower in almost all other components of air pollution, such as sulfar oxides (SOx), methane, particulates, etc. Biofuels may release as much nitrogen oxides (NOx) as petro fuels, but the reseach is not all in yet.

    Another issue is sustainability. We’ve all heard about the Petroleum peak – that we’ve taken more than half of all the estimated oil that exists. At some point in the next 25 years the amount of oil we can pump will begin to decline. Before that happens, we need to find a replacement. We’ve all heard talk of alternative energy sources – solar, wind, nuclear fusion, hydrogen. All have potential, but they’re all years, if not decades or centuries away. Biofuels are here, now. We know they work, we know we can get enough to satisfy our needs and we know we can extend the technology to 2nd and 3rd world countries.

    Biofuels are a win/win for the US and the world.

  • michel

    I cant believe they would ban biodiesel. It just doesn’t seem right. I would rather be behind a biodiesel truck than a petroleum burning truck any day!

  • Gary

    Dick, your summary is very informative, and you cite references to back up your position unlike others pontificating hot air – Thank you.

    Personally, I don’t think there is any single source solution for all our needs. I think America needs to invest heavily in biofuels, solar, wind and conservation of energy. I believe now is a perfect time to do that given the state of our economy and an additional 1.2 million Americans out of work.


  • Dr.Sirichai Methavichit

    Dear sir,
    Anyone who has problem with NOx from biofuel can contact me .I have solution and I guarantee that there
    will be a significant reduction not only NOx but also CO and CO2 .

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Forecasting Wind Data with Cell Phone Towers

Wind data provider Onesemble has developed sensors which can keep note of wind date for around 95% of the wind farms existing in the Texas area. The help of

Fuel Additive Production Takes the Green Route

Fuel Additive Production Takes the Green Route

Research is on for the organic production of isobutene (isobutylene). Thomas Bobik, Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology and David Gogerty, a doctoral student are doing pioneer research

Scientists Revisit Power from Potatoes

Scientists Revisit Power from Potatoes

This could very well be the magic formula for future power generation. Yes, scientists are busy crafting what is now called as “solid organic electric battery based upon treated

Synthetic Fuel from CO2 and Solar Energy?

Synthetic Fuel from CO2 and Solar Energy?

Really amazing are the innovative ways solar power is put into use. Now a team of scientists working in Sandia National Laboratories is focusing on exploring basic steps to

Engineers Tap Algae Cells for Electricity

Engineers Tap Algae Cells for Electricity

With the help of photosynthesis plants convert light energy to chemical energy. This chemical energy is stored in the bonds of sugars they use for food. Photosynthesis happens inside

Biofuels and Carbon Capture from Frog Foam?

Biofuels and Carbon Capture from Frog Foam?

Since time immemorial human beings are trying to use solar energy for their survival and day to day use. We know that green plants create their own food and