Biodiesel Essay

Biodiesel – Fuel For The Future

Biodiesel – Fuel for the Future

Diesel engines are an integral part of the economy and a part of our everyday lives. Accompany almost any of the goods we purchase daily and you will see a diesel engine in every step of its harvesting, manufacturing, or delivery. Take for example a shipment of American wheat that is destined for export overseas. Diesel engines power the tractors that are used for tilling, planting and harvesting. Diesel powered pumps are used to irrigate the fields and diesel trucks transport the wheat to a grain elevator for storage. From the grain elevator, diesel locomotives haul cars full of wheat to mills or even diesel powered barges that will in turn carry it to distant markets or ocean ports. At the ports, diesel powered equipment load the grain onto diesel powered vessels while diesel powered generators stand by to provide backup power to the docks and warehouses.

Diesel engines have been favored over gasoline engines or other sources of power because they are more versatile and cheaper to run. However, with these advantages come disadvantages; the effluent produced by the combustion of diesel fuel is one of the main contributors to worldwide environmental pollution problems. Diesel exhaust is a mixture of thousands of gases and particulate matter (PM), or soot. PM contains thousands of substances that are listed as toxic air pollutants by the Environmental Protection Agency. PM contains over 40 cancer-causing substances known as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), such as benzene, arsenic, formaldehyde, lead and mercury compounds. These substances can settle on water, soil and vegetation, or can be washed onto these surfaces during rainfall. Particulate matter in the lower atmosphere scatters and absorbs light, reducing visibility. These particles also lead to smog and the formation of brown clouds. Not only can the effluent affect the environment, but the entire cycle of fuel production, manufacturing, transportation, storage, distribution, and usage is harmful as well. Although the United States is the largest consumer of oil in the world, it does not have many reserves. This dependence on foreign oil, especially in the Middle East, causes a great deal of political tension and ultimately wars which are also devastating to the environment. In order to improve air quality, reduce environmental pollution, and improve our energy independence, alternative fuels and methods of power are needed.

There are many alternatives to diesel fuel such as natural gas, fuel cells, biodiesel, and electric power. Natural gas is the most attractive alternative to diesel fuel because it is cheaper and burns cleaner than diesel; but the base price of natural gas vehicles (NGV) are thousands of dollars more than a comparable diesel fueled vehicle. Even though the user would pay ten to twenty cents less per gallon when compared to diesel, the incentive is not there. The infrastructure needed to make refueling...

Loading: Checking Spelling


Read more

An optimistic look at the future fuel crisis

997 words - 4 pages The human species is a restless form of life, seeking to expand its influence and "control" over prevailing circumstances in ever-widening ripples of influence. The line between the illusion of control and actual control is not bright and distinct, however. While we have made great changes in our ability to control certain things, control of others remains elusive, and perhaps self-defeating. But, that said, humans strive for control of their...

Fuels for the Future Essay

1472 words - 6 pages IntroductionPetrol is a liquid obtained from petroleum and used mainly as a fuel for motor vehicles. A fuel is petrol that can be burned (to provide heat or power). When the fuel is burned, it emits complex mixtures of compounds that lead to the formation of smog and other potentially toxic pollutants. Of all the petroleum that is extracted from the earth, about 84% is burned as a fuel (1). Concerns over rising pollution have encouraged...

Caring For The Future

610 words - 2 pages Caring for the futureFor those who care about my future, and even for the ones who don't: we cannot keep on doing what we normally do as we live our normal lives. Our world is slowly fading away, or in the future, completely gone. Think about the consequences of the life of our children, the children of your children and the people of my future. How are we going to sustain everything we have done today to all the future generations? Who...

Homeschool for the Future

875 words - 4 pages In the article "Most Likely to Succeed," Amy Hollingsworth writes about being "successful" versus being a mother that homeschools her children. She implies that while homeschooling is very rewarding, it is something a person chooses instead of success. If children are the future, then the only true success comes from raising them with good morals, common sense, and...

Science For the Future

1327 words - 5 pages Is the theory of evolution too risqué to teach children, or is it an instrumental part of science education? The article, “Why Evolution Should Be Taught in Public Schools” by Laura H. Kahn addresses this debate. Her title is straightforward, giving us direct insight to what the article will be focused on, drawing in readers with its simplicity. She brings a fresh perspective on the tired argument of evolutionism vs creationism, by bringing up...

Energy for the Future

1493 words - 6 pages Energy for the Future Energy is often considered to be the world’s most valuable resource. With its vast amount of uses, it is essentially the backbone to the modern world and technology. For many years, the U.S. and other countries around the world have been relying heavily on fossil fuels to meet their energy needs. This dependence has led to a lot of problems not only environmentally but also politically and economically. By using imported...

The Future of Transportation: Alternative Energy, Fuel Mileage and Preventive Maintenance

1316 words - 5 pages The future of transportation is as bright as the sun. Car types and styles are ever so changing in our world today. Nothing is constant. Manufacturers are constantly breaking the mold and designing fresh new ideas for how we get from place to place. From body styles to engine types, things are changing. But body styles aren't the only things limited to change. The very way we move ourselves is changing. Traditional combustion engines are...

New Energy for the Future

1717 words - 7 pages New Energy for the Future For years man has relied on energy in order to be successful in life. The industrial revolution relied on coal for the new inventions brought into the world. Life as has never been the same since then. However since that time, there has been little done to improve on energy efficiency and humans still primarily rely on fossil fuels for energy. For over a hundred years the Earth has become more polluted and dirtier than...

Nuclear Solution For the Future

2302 words - 9 pages Nuclear Solution for the Future For forty years the United States has encountered increased prices and demand for energy. So what has been done to end the country’s energy crisis? Numerous organizations such as, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have done research and made recommendations, but no systems have been put in place to resolve this volatile situation. The U.S. has resources and technologies...

Redefining Education for the Future

1012 words - 4 pages With the economic situation today, it is more important than ever to make sure that students are being provided with skills that allow them to compete in the job market. Every year it seems like we are hearing how schools in the United States are falling behind students in other developed countries, and yet funding for education continues to be cut. Education needs to be pushed to the forefront, in order for the United States to remain...

Building Foundations for The Future

1572 words - 6 pages Building Foundations for The Future When I think of how my teaching style will be one day, a particular parable comes to mind that I have known since my childhood days. In the Bible, in the book of Matthew, Peter and several other fishermen were fishing out on the ocean one night when from far out in the distance, they could see a man walking on the water toward them. The man was Jesus. Peter was afraid that the figure...

Biofuels are combustible fuels created from biomass.



Biofuels are combustible fuels created from biomass[1]; in other words, fuels created from recently living plant matter as opposed to ancient plant matter in hydrocarbons.  The term biofuel is usually used to reference liquid fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel that are used as replacements for transportation fuels like petroleum, diesel and jet fuel[1]. Biofuels can also include solid fuels like wood pellets and biogas or syngas – however in this summary we will focus on liquid fuels.

There are two main types of biofuels – ethanol and biodiesel[1].  The simplest way to distinguish between the two is to remember ethanol is an alcohol and biodiesel is an oil.  Ethanol is an alcohol formed by fermentation and can be used as a replacement for, or additive to, gasoline whereas biodiesel is produced by extracting naturally occurring oils from plants and seeds in a process called transesterification. Biodiesel can be combusted in diesel engines.



Biofuels are grouped by categories - first generation, second generation, and third generation – based on the type of feedstock (the input material) used to produce them.

  • First generation biofuels are produced from food crops.  For ethanol, feedstocks include sugar cane, corn, maize, etc.  For biodiesel, feedstocks are naturally occurring vegetable oils such as soybean and canola[2].
  • Second generation biofuels are produced from cellulosic material such as wood, grasses, and inedible parts of plants.  This material is more difficult to break down through fermentation and therefore requires pre-treatment before it can be processed[2]Naik, S. N., Goud, V. V., Rout, P. K., & Dalai, A. K. (2010). Production of first and second generation biofuels: a comprehensive review. Retrieved from Naik, S. N., Goud, V. V., Rout, P. K., & Dalai, A. K. (2010). Production of first and second generation biofuels: a comprehensive review. Retrieved from .
  • Third generation biofuels are produced using the lipid production from algae.

In addition, the term “Advanced Biofuels” is used to describe the relatively new technological field of biofuel production that uses waste such as garbage, animal fats, and spent cooking oil to produce liquid fuels.

Biofuels are not as energy dense as conventional transportation fuels.  1 gallon of biodiesel has 93% of the energy of 1 gallon of diesel and 1 gallon of ethanol (E85) has 73% of the energy of 1 gallon of gasoline[3]Alternative Fuels Data Center – Fuel Properties Comparison Alternative Fuels Data Center – Fuel Properties Comparison .


Biofuels are currently the only viable replacement to hydrocarbon transportation fuels.  Because biofuels can be used in existing combustion engines, minimal changes to infrastructure are required for their implementation[4]Janaun, J., & Ellis, N. (2010). Perspectives on biodiesel as a sustainable fuel. Retrieved from Janaun, J., & Ellis, N. (2010). Perspectives on biodiesel as a sustainable fuel. Retrieved from .  This is their most prominent advantage as concerns about the environmental impacts of fossil fuels continue to rise. 

In regions that do not have hydrocarbon resources but do have suitable agricultural conditions, biofuels provide an alternative to foreign fuel imports. They also come from a wide variety of sources and therefore can be produced in many regions. 

While there is some dispute over just how “renewable” biofuels are, it is generally accepted that the crops used to produce them can be replenished much faster than fossil fuels.

Concerns about biofuels are usually centered around the fact that they are an agricultural product[1]Demirbas, A. (2008). Biofuels sources, biofuel policy, biofuel economy and global biofuel projections. Retrieved from  Demirbas, A. (2008). Biofuels sources, biofuel policy, biofuel economy and global biofuel projections. Retrieved from  .  One key concern about biofuels is that crops grown for fuel production compete with other natural resources, particularly food and water.  First generation biofuels use only edible crops which has led to biofuel crops displacing food sources in some regions.  In many regions of the world, subsidies are provided for these crops which only amplifies these issues.  In addition, increased agriculture of any form often comes with concerns of deforestation, water and fertilizer use, which all have their own respective environmental and climate impacts. 


  1. a, b, c, dDemirbas, A. (2008). Biofuels sources, biofuel policy, biofuel economy and global biofuel projections. Retrieved from  
  2. a, bNaik, S. N., Goud, V. V., Rout, P. K., & Dalai, A. K. (2010). Production of first and second generation biofuels: a comprehensive review. Retrieved from 
  3. ^Alternative Fuels Data Center – Fuel Properties Comparison 
  4. ^Janaun, J., & Ellis, N. (2010). Perspectives on biodiesel as a sustainable fuel. Retrieved from 

One thought on “Biodiesel Essay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *