Biodiesel – made from domestic renewable resources, such as crops. It doesn’t originally contain petroleum, but it can be combined with diesel to produce a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel has met strict Clean Air Act guidelines for health and safety. Biodiesel is a clean, renewable energy with lower emissions than petroleum, and it biodegrades easily. The cons of biodiesel include soil erosion, and the production of crops for fuel instead of food. It’s a good start, but not quite perfect.
Ethanol is produced from plants. It is an alcohol that can be used for energy. It can be combined with gasoline to make E85, which newer Chevy cars are able to use. Also a renewable resource, ethanol burns cleanly and biodegrades quickly. However, it has the same negative effects that biodiesel has, namely, growing crops for fuel instead of food. Corn is a popular source of ethanol, but as we’ve learned previously, sugar cane may be a more practical alternative, as long as forests are not clear-cut to produce the plant. Rolling Stone points out the perils of rushing to “produce” a new fuel.
Essentially, vegetable oil can be used in any diesel engine, biodiesel is made from crops and combined with petroleum, and ethanol is made from plants and can be combined with gasoline to fuel cars. Biodiesel and ethanol both require an energy-intensive refining process, while vegetable oil can be used as is.
There are other sources of fuel, such as hydrogen, electric, fuel cells, and hybrids. As a consumer, I’m happy to see choices. Now, let’s see some of these cars on the road!