Current Myths Regarding Biofuel

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Increasing uncertainty in global energy production and supply, environmental concerns due to the use of fossil fuels, and high prices of petroleum products are considered to be the major reasons to search for alternatives to petrodiesel. For instance, Lean (2007) claimed that the global supply of oil and natural gas from the conventional sources is unlikely to meet the growth in energy demand over the next 25 years. As a result of this cognition, biofuels are considered to be sustainable alternatives to petroleum products. Because few are accustomed to questioning the first premise of any of these conclusions, even the ardent supporters of the petroleum industry find merit in this conclusion. Considerable funds have been spent in developing biofuel technology, and even the mention of negative impacts of food (e.g., corn) being converted into fuel was considered to be anti-civilization. It is assumed that biodiesel fuels are environmentally beneficial (Demirbas 2003). The argument put forward is that plant and vegetable oils and animal fats are renewable biomass sources. This argument follows other supporting assertions, such as the idea that biodiesel represents a closed carbon dioxide cycle because it is derived from renewable biomass sources. Biodiesel has a lower emission of pollutants compared to petroleum diesel. Plus, it is biodegradable, and its lubricity extends engine life (Kurki et al. 2006) and contributes to sustainability (Khan et al. 2006; Kurki et al. 2006). Biodiesel has a higher cetane number than diesel fuel, no aromatics, no sulfur, and contains 10-11% oxygen by weight (Canakci 2007).

Of course, negative aspects of biofuels are also discussed. For instance, it is known that the use of vegetable oils in the compression ignition engines can cause several problems due to its high viscosity (Roger and Jaiduk 1985). It is also accepted that the use of land for the production of edible oil for biodiesel feedstock competes with the use of land for food production. Moreover, the price of edible plant and vegetable oils is considered to be higher than petrodiesel. Based on this argument, alarms were sounded when oil prices dropped in fall 2008, as though a drop in petroleum fuels would kill the "environmentally friendly" biofuel projects, thereby killing the prospect of a clean environment. As a remedy to this unsubstantiated and aphenomenal conclusion, waste cooking oils and non-edible oils are promoted to take care of the economic concerns. It is known that the use of waste cooking oil as biodiesel feedstock reduces the cost of biodiesel production (Canakci 2007) since the feedstock costs constitutes approximately 70-95% of the overall cost of biodiesel production (Connemann and Fischer 1998).

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