Biodiesel: How It's Made, Environmental Impact, Where to Find a Fueling Station, and More

Biodiesel production
Not long ago, biodiesel was relegated to use only by who were perceived to be backyard chemists and hippies, existing in our collective conscience somewhere between tie-dye and burlap, but not anymore. Morgan Freeman, Daryl Hannah and Julia Roberts all actively promote the fuel; Willie Nelson even makes the stuff. Bands and musicians like Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Barenaked Ladies, Guster and Gomez have embraced it and use it to fuel their tours; in short, biodiesel has arrived.

It’s not perfect, though. Like its petrol equivalent, biodiesel tends to turn a little gelatinous at low temperatures, so it’s not always suitable for year-round use, depending on the climate where you live; this problem can be addressed by going with a mixture of biodiesel and petrodiesel (you’ll see it on the pumps: B50 is a 50/50 mix; B20 is 20% biodiesel, and so on). Mixing in the petro version lowers the gelling point, so its less likely to turn to jelly in your engine over night.

Finding biodiesel stations
Biodiesel is still growing, and so it isn’t readily available all over the place, as gasoline and diesel fuel is, so you’ll have to pay attention to your gas gauge and a know a reliable source or two. The good news is that its popularity is exploding, thanks in part to celebrity boosters like Willie Nelson and his brand, BioWillie and more stations are popping up every day. With the recent addition of ultra-low sulfur-emitting diesel (ULSD) in the US, diesel engines will be available in more cars than ever, and we expect biodiesel production and popularity to follow suit.

Click this map to find biodiesel at a pump near you
Further reading on biodiesel
To learn more about biodiesel, click on over to the National Biodiesel Board and the US Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center site for biodiesel. For further reading in TreeHugger, check out how to make your own and how to find it when you're on the road, with just your cell phone.
Read about algae biodiesel, at How Stuff Works.
Fill up on green knowledge in TreeHugger's Green Basics column, which appears regularly here at TreeHugger.

Tags: Alternative Energy | Biodiesel | Biofuels | Green Basics


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