Monday, March 15, 2010

More Biofuel Stuff

Okay boys and girls. Some sharp readers have noted that I came down hard on corn biofuel yesterday, yet run my car on vegetable oil. What gives?

Indeed. What gives.

It's comparing apples and oranges. Corn is grown for ethanol. Fuel is not a byproduct of food production, it's food turned directly into fuel.

Now there are some biodiesel plants that start with fresh vegetable oil. I'm opposed to that too. At least I'm that consistent.

My vehicles run on waste vegetable oil. It's done its job. It's cooked food. By the time I get it the restaurant is throwing it out. It's no longer fit for cooking.

The restaurant that supplies the bulk of my veggie had a hard time getting rid of the oil. The company didn't come often enough. They made a mess of things, and charged money for the service too. (poor as the service was) I pick up the oil on a regular basis. They never have to call me. Should I be out of town and can't make the pickup, I've people who fill in for me. Don't want to disappoint the restaurant people.

This has been going on for years -all by an oral agreement and a handshake.

Now instead of the oil being a hazardous waste needing disposal, it's turned into a useful fuel. Instead of a big diesel burning truck coming from several states away, I haul it a short distance with my veggie powered truck. The restaurant owner keeps a bit more money and has one less worry. I save a lot on motor fuel and can afford to occasionally eat out at the restaurant.

Some people give me a little grief because I'm using straight vegetable oil. Because of that, the vehicles have to be started and shut down with regular petrochemical dinosaur diesel. About 5% of the fuel I burn is ordinary diesel. The rest is waste veggie.

Had the WVO been converted to biodiesel, it'd be possible to just pour it in the tank of a diesel vehicle and drive off. My vehicles have to have two fuel tanks, switching valves, heaters, and a few other little gizmos.

While biodiesel can be run directly in an unconverted diesel, it still has extra energy costs associated with it. There's the expense and materials of the biodiesel processor. The machine uses energy to make the fuel and also some nasty chemicals like methanol. There ain't no free lunch. Either have a complicated vehicle that uses unconverted fuel, or have a complicated processor.

Biodiesel works fine in warm weather. It tends to jell at colder temperatures, like those we have here in NH. They either have to put in a tank warmer and insulated hoses (like in my WVO vehicle) or switch to regular dino diesel. Since I did such a nice job converting my vehicles, I can run straight waste vegetable oil all the way down to -25 F. It takes a bit longer to warm everything up, but once it warms up, it runs fine.

At least I'm not taking corn tortillas out of little kids mouths.


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