Sunday, December 10, 2006

Today's news: All about biodiesel

Two interesting articles in the Seattle Times today. One suggests that an old scourge, prairie switch grass, might be a good fuel for biodiesel. Apparently switchgrass needs little in the way of fertilizer or insecticides, and it also bypasses some of the questions about corn's usefulness.

The business section has an article, Can Biodiesel Compete on Price. It supports my argument that higher gasoline prices will give alternative fuels more opportunity to get through the start-up phase and be able to make money. The article discusses a Seattle biodiesel startup, Imperium Renewables, in detail.

The largest users of biodiesel at this point appear to be fleets, largely government fleets. That's a good start.

I recall the CNG fuels (compressed natural gas) that we started using in local government years ago. We've now pretty much all phased out our CNG modified police cars and are adopting hybrids at this point. Unlike CNG and biodiesel, hybrids have no fuel distribution problem. Admittedly, the biodiesel distribution problem is much simpler than the CNG problem: CNG never made it to any even noticeable percentage of the consumer market since there were no corner gas stations for it. There are a few good things going for biodiesel: newer diesel cars and trucks can run on it and older ones can apparently be converted. Still, I can't use it without buying a new car, and I only recall seeing one station advertising it when I stopped for gas. I hope that rectifies itself, since like hybrids, biodiesel has a lot to recommend it. It can be produced domestically, it doesn't rely on a single sources of raw materials that can't be easily replaced, and it is cheaper to produce than oil has generally been to buy this year.

My belief? Biodiesel will be one part of the actual solution to getting us to switch to alternative fuels. Hard to tell how big a part yet, but enough to matter.

No comments: