By on August 20, 2007

areal_galen_plant.jpgUnder the Energy Conservation Reauthorization Act of 1998, federal, state, and public utility fleets can meet their alternative fuel requirements by tanking-up with biodiesel. As a direct result, The National Biodiesel Board reports sales of the vegetable oil and and diesel brew have risen to 225m gallons per year, heading for an estimated 2b gallons by 2015. Carpe-ing the diem, Green Earth Fuels has started production of biofuels in Houston. Using a proprietary system, Green Earth's aiming to cook-up some 45 million gallons of biodiesel per year. "The time has come for a national biodiesel infrastructure that is safe, sustainable, progressive and commercially viable," says Greg Bafalis, Green Earth’s president and CEO. Wall Street tycoons (The Carlyle Group, Riverstone Holdings and Goldman Sacks) are bankrolling Bafalis' faith in alt. fuel serendipity. But the rising price of vegetable oils and the possibility that Uncle Sam may remove its biofuel "incentives" have some investors spooked– while Washington lobbyists continue to cash large checks.  

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5 Comments on “Biodiesel: Boondoggle or Blessing? Green Earth Gives It a Go...”

  • avatar

    Now if they could make it out of algae instead of soybeans, our food prices might not skyrocket.

    In related news, NAFTA is allowing sugar from Mexico into the states. Seems now that the Corn prices are propped up by ethanol, we don’t need the sugar tariffs.

  • avatar

    Uncle Sam is a bit dimmer than what you give him credit for.

    Basically, there are two fuels that can be made from lipids (biological oils or fats): biodiesel and green diesel.

    Making biodiesel involves a very precise chemical reaction known as transestrification. You basically replace glycerol with methanol. The resulting fuel has good lubrication and emissions properties. It also has a tendency to gel at low temperatures which leads to all sorts of problems. Ask Minnesota truck drivers about that one. Note that B2 means all of 2% biodiesel mixed in with regular diesel.

    The other thing you can do with lipids is to treat them the way refineries treat crude oil: heat it up and let it break down in the products you want. There are different variations of this. Changing World Technologies has a two step process that rips out the glycerol and sends it to waste. ConocoPhillips working with Tyson Foods (to source the feedstock) has a version that uses hydrogen (available at most refineries). In both cases the product is chemically almost identical to fossil diesel, except that it’s cleaner (no sulfur or aromatics).

    So, faced with the opportunity to fund these two processes, what did Uncle Sam do? Fund the one that converts food into fuel (that makes sense) and buys some votes in the Midwest, of course. Afterall, we can’t allow an oil company to do something green, can we?

  • avatar

    Did anyone see the story about how it may be greener to drive to the store than walk?

    Supposedly, it takes so much energy to grow and transport food nowadays that the embedded fuel usage in a calorie of food makes walking a pollution event. God forbid you might exercise!

  • avatar

    If it’s cheaper, it uses less energy. Depending on what you eat, what you drive, and how much you weigh, that story may be true.

  • avatar

    A study by German researchers found that — at least for rapeseed oil — that SVO (straight vegetable oil) and biodiesel blends exhaust emissisons have more mutagenic compounds than straight petrochem diesel.

    I suppose killing off the population with cancer from biodiesel emissions is one way to reduce Social Security spending.

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