By Ross Jones

What is biodiesel and how is it made?

Biodiesel is a liquid fuel derived from vegetable oils and fats that is biodegradable and nontoxic.

The biodiesel is made through a process called transesterification. Transesterification is the process of exchanging the alcohol group of an ester compound with another alcohol. These reactions are often catalyzed by the addition of an acid or base.

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Materials needed to produce biodiesel:

  • Vegetable oils, yellow grease, used cooking oils, and tallow.

  • Short-chain alcohol (normally methanol)

  • Catalyst (normally sodium hydroxide NaOH, or sometimes potassium hydroxide KOH)

  • Something to manufacture the biodiesel with: kits or homemade labs

1 gallon of homemade biodiesel costs about $0.74.

To make biodiesel a mass-produced 100% alternative to fossil fuels is going to be difficult.

  • It will require finding the right source that will make the most efficient biodiesel.

  • Another obstacle that must be overcome is developing a new engine that will take B100. Older vehicles with diesel engines can run smoothly off of biodiesel, but newer ones cannot run off of pure biodiesel. They can run off B20 or less.

  • Meeting new safety mandates and regulations set for biodiesel production

Long Term Benefits: Using biodiesel will increase the air quality, energy security, and safety.

Long-term Drawbacks:

  • May increase nitrogen monoxide (NO) emissions

  • It takes a lot of land to produce the livestock needed to manufacture biodiesel. Regional sustainability and food security

  • Genetic engineering, pest control

Short-term Drawbacks:

  • Loss of biodiversity. Monoculture

  • Prices of other goods

  • Biodiesel can gum up engines and machines