Posted by Krzysztof Lis on May 9, 2008
I read today an article about some advantages of using biodiesel. I must say that I can’t agree with all the enthusiastic claims stated there.
Biodiesel is inexpensive.
This is not true in every case. In Poland you can buy petrodiesel for 4.29 PLN/liter (close to 7.4 $/gal!) and vegetable oil (in small amounts) for more than 3.00 PLN/liter (more than 5.1 $/gal). But to make biodiesel you need also methanol and some catalyst. So the price of biodiesel in our conditions will not be significantly lower than the price of petrodiesel.
If you can buy your vegetable oil cheap, your biodiesel will be cheap. If you made your own biodiesel processor (reactor), it’s price won’t add much to biodiesel cost. But if you bought your for a lot of money, and it uses a lot of electricity for pumps and mixers, your biodiesel will become more expensive. You have to take into account the cost of biodiesel processor and any other equipment you bought to make this fuel. In any other case you’ll be lying to yourself…
Biodiesel reduces the environmental effect of a waste product.
In most cases it’s true. But making biodiesel through transesterification gives also a by-product: glycerine. If you don’t dump it but use it for anything or sell to someone, you do reduce the environmental effect of diesel fuel. Hopefully there are some good ways to make use of glycerine.
Biodiesel is produced locally.
If you make your own, that’s true. If you buy your biodiesel from some industrial supplier, don’t expect he bought it near you. He probably made it where it’s convenient for him. Where he has his factory, but not necessarily where he has his vegetable oil supplier! Not only he has to drive the biodiesel itself to your gas station, but he also has to buy the vegetable oil from somewhere. This vegetable oil transport does lead to some greenhouse gases emissions!
But hey, I hope you didn’t feel discouraged to use or make your own biodiesel! If you have cheap source of vegetable oil and methanol and can use glycerine to do something good, be happy and make as much biodiesel as you can!
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