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                                       Biodiesels - Are They The Answer To Our Energy Woes
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                                                                                                                            by Matthew Hick


Biodiesels may be touted as the answer to all of America's energy problems. But are they? Yes, according to most experts. Biodiesels offer:

-Cleaner air.
-Cheaper fuel.
-A renewable fuel source.
-A homegrown fuel alterative, freeing the United States from an over-dependence on foreign oil.  


What Are Biodiesel Fuels?  

Biodiesel is a fuel for cars, trucks and busses, made from fatty acid alkylesters found in vegetable and soybean oil, animal fats and even recycled restaurant
grease. It is safe to handle, safe to store and safe to transport.  


What Are Its Benefits.

Used in its pure form (100%), biodiesel is a cleaner burning fuel that not only emits fewer air pollutants itself, but helps reduce dangerous emissions of
hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, sulfates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrated aromatic hydrocarbons and particulate matter, that enter the atmosphere
by limiting the use of petroleum.  

Scientists now believe that carbon dioxide alone may be one of the main contributing factors to greenhouse gasses linked to the growing concern over global
warming. Using 100% biodiesel fuels could reduce these dangerous greenhouse gasses by a whopping 75%!  

It's not just the environment that benefits from the use of biodiesels. Humans do to. Biodiesel fuels are better for our lungs and our hearts, by clearing the air we
breathe. It even smells better to burn than diesel smoke. Some have compared it to French fries cooking.  


Who Can Use Biodiesel Fuel?

Biodiesels are available in some degree to just about everybody. Today, most gasoline stations offer a mixture of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum. But more
needs to be done to get 100% biodiesel fuels to the consumer. Contrary to popular myth, most vehicles built after 1994 are already equipped to handle
biodiesel fuels with little or no modifications. Special pumps and fueling stations are not needed and it can be made rather quickly and easily.  

The soybean industry has been advocating the use of biodiesel fuels for years, touting the importance of its positive effect on the environment as well as the
nation's economy. Based on a recent survey conducted by the United States Department of Energy, there is currently enough foodstuffs available in the U.S.
(consisting of available soybean oil, vegetable oils, and animal fats), to make 1.9 billion gallons of biodiesel. That's just 5% of all petroleum American's will use
to run their cars, trucks, and city busses this year!  

Cost too, is negligible. Soybean oil, the most popular and available ingredient for making biodiesel fuel, may be the most expensive. But at just 20 cents per
pound, the cost of producing just 1 gallon of fuel with soybean oil would cost less than $1.50 a gallon. Using recycled fats and grease is even cheaper, costing
less than $1.00 per gallon to produce.  


The Downside of Using Biodiesel Fuel.

There are two downsides to using biodiesel fuels, however. Car manufacturers believe that the fuel may impact a vehicle's engine durability, requiring more
maintenance than when using traditional petroleum products. Second, current biodiesels available don't seem to hold up in cold weather climates. More
research is needed to make the fuel handle better in extreme low temperatures. But, all-in-all those are only minor setbacks in the quest for a cleaner, cheaper
and more available fuel supply.


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