Biodiesel is a diesel fuel made from vegetable oils or animal fats rather than petroleum (crude oil). Soybean oil is one of the most popular sources of biodiesel, but it can also be made from leftover fryer oil from restaurants. Biodiesel is actually one of the oldest vehicle fuels around. When Rudolph Diesel demonstrated his revolutionary engine at the 1900 World’s Fair, it ran on peanut oil.
Most freight trucks run on conventional diesel fuel. Heavy-duty trucks rely on diesel engines to supply the necessary torque to pull heavy loads of cargo. Unfortunately, the combustion of conventional diesel fuel results in dangerous levels of greenhouse emissions. In the U.S., freight trucks account for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the entire transportation sector.
Switching to Biodiesel
The good news is that biodiesel, when blended with conventional diesel, can significantly lower the levels of certain greenhouse gas emissions. According to an EPA report, a blend of 20 percent biodiesel with 80 percent conventional diesel produces 21 percent fewer hydrocarbon emissions and 10.1 percent less particulate matter. The greater the concentration of biodiesel, the more dramatic the effects are. Pure biodiesel reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 70 percent and carbon monoxide emissions by 50 percent.
The switch to biodiesel requires no engine modifications for heavy duty trucks, and many shipping companies and independent drivers are turning to the cleaner-burning fuel. In 2008, the Safeway grocery store chain switched its entire fleet of delivery trucks to biodiesel.