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Biodiesel, you’re letting me down!

June 22, 2006

I'm not sure when I first heard of biodiesel.  Maybe it was the first time I saw a bumpersticker that read "BIODIESEL: No War Required".  I think it was around the time that hybrid cars were gaining popularity, and they were being compared to biodiesel cars for the low-impact on the environment.  After doing some research I decided I liked biodiesel better than the hybrid, in part because of this great article by Jesse Cornett over at BlueOregon. 

I went out a bought a new car (I know, I know):  the 2006 VW Golf TDI.  It was somewhat devastating – I'd never made such a large purchase.  The level of commitment felt like a marriage.  In any case, after crying about it the next day I got over the buyer's remorse and fell in love with my golf.  Now I was going to use biodiesel!  The great thing about Portland (and other cities throughout the NW) is that you can fill up w/ bio in lots of places, thanks to SeQuential Fuels.  There's one on the corner of Stark and MLK and elsewhere in the city. 

Plus, if you're really excited about making your own biodiesel, there's a co-op here in Portland that you can join.  You give a one-time fee of $100 and commit to helping produce the fuel – there are lots of options – in exchange for very low cost biodiesel, plus you have the satisfaction of turning waste oil into something useful.

There seems to be one catch in all this greatness that I didn't think about.  There is only so much waste vegetable oil – not enough to sustain the growth of a large percentage of drivers – and using oils from corn and soybeans to make biodiesel is very land- and water-intensive, i.e., not good for the environment either.  It's looking like using biofuel in place of petroleum is a short term solution to a problem that's just not going to go away.  Read the full story here. 

Even if it's not sustainable, I still think biodiesel is great.  It's just one step along the way.   

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2006 9:13 pm

    Like so many other things: Love the idea hate the hassle of the reality.

    Props to anyone that pushes for something better. Or even just something alternative. I think I voted Nader on that very principle once (gawd, not last time!)

  2. June 26, 2006 10:06 am

    When I did my alternative fuels round-up a while back, and availability was definitely the down side on biodiesel–but it won’t be a factor for a long time. Our current consumption is super tiny, and the article points out we could top out at 37%. In the meantime, it actually kills two birds with one stone by recycling the spent oils.

    Biodiesel isn’t carbon neutral, and I would hope it’s only a transitional fuel–but it’s lightyears ahead of any alternatives in terms of energy utilization, emissions, and technological compatibility. For the life of current new cars, biodiesel should be totally adequate.

    (And Wikipedia says we can make biodiesel out of algae and “photosythetic biodiesel,” which could expand the life and possibilities–though I’d prefer we just get to carbon neutral technologies. Because, hey, anybody check out the freakin’ temperature lately??)


  1. a girl in stumptown about her way. » Blog Archive » What do alternative fuels and same-sex marriage have in common?

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