Friday, September 29, 2006

Biodiesel: The answer to transport emissions?

Biodiesel is diesel fuel made from vegetable oils rather than crude oil. The diesel engine was originally designed to take raw vegetable oil, but modern diesel engines require the oil to be reacted with methanol to form an ester.

Most biodiesel is sold as a 5% blend - in other words 95% of it is normal diesel. According to its manual, my VW Golf will run on 100% biodiesel in the summer and 50% in the winter. Unfortunately there's no supplier close to me (but I have found another source). Try here for your nearest biodiesel supplier.

You can make it yourself - see here - and only pay 20p per litre to the chancellor for the privilege. Be warned, the reaction is somewhat 'vigorous' so you should get someone who knows what they're doing to show you how.

The debate on biodiesel is how much we could produce without clearing rainforest to grow palm oil - this is happening in Indonesia - or cutting food production. Paul Mobbs, in his rigorous analysis of the energy situation, states there simply isn't enough land area in the UK to convert to 100% biodiesel. Peter Kendall, president of the UK's National Farmers' Union (NFU), says that there is enough agricultural land to deliver the Government's 5% biofuel target without reducing food production.

My verdict: using Biodiesel is better than not using Biodiesel, but it isn't enough on its own. We still need to drive less.


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