The Good, The Bad And The Bright Side Of Biodiesel
The risks involved in biodiesel have been highlighted in recent media articles citing expert studies that pointed out huge anomalies in the blended biodiesel industry. Other research points out that pure biodiesels are rapidly improving in quality. Plus, there have been a few projects that provide alternative solutions to greenhouse gas emitting crops grown for the biofuels.
One of the most outrageous findings was revealed in research by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which pointed out that samples of 20 biodiesel blenders (B20 biodiesels) contained hugely varying levels of the biological stuff.
The variations stretched from 10 to 74% of actual biodiesel content. The researchers say that it’s mostly the smaller retailers that cause the imbalances. Those retailers tend to use the so called splash blending method to mix the diesels; they pour the biodiesel into regular diesel in a big tank or truck.
Consumers feel cheated because the manufacturers of blended biofuels get a standard tax credit based on an x amount of biofuel components. This means that those that put in 10% instead of 20% biodiesel get rewarded for something they don’t deserve. And those that use higher percentages of biodiesel are putting their consumers at risk because the high blends of biodiesel can freeze in cold temperatures.
Meanwhile, other products in the biodiesel industry appear to be improving. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, pure biodiesel is vastly improving.
The problems with blended biofuels are rather simple to redress. A much more damaging report was published last year which cast serious doubts on the crops grown for use in biofuel. Researchers at SRI Consulting concluded that the emissions of greenhouse gases by growing some crops amounted to similar levels of the CO2 emissions by cars. Scientists are finding various alternative solutions to this problem. One ingenious solution is to make biofuels of the large quantities of glycerol that the biofuel industry has been producing thus far. The glycerol is harmful for the environment and its production is considered a drawback to the biofuel industry.
Scientists at the University of Leeds (UK) reported a few months ago that not only have found a perfect alternative to simply disposing of glycerol, but they had discovered a valuable hidden energy source in this waste material; a high-value, hydrogen-rich gas!
Other solutions that could facilitate fast and large scale implementation of non harmful biofuels include fungus infested straw and algae conversion. The straw solution is very workable and UK experts (video) say we could be running our cars on the stuff within the next five to ten years.