Everything old is new again; or so the saying goes. If you’ve got tweens or teens running around the house, then their lava lamps and tie-die shirts are probably proving this saying true.
And so it goes for biodiesel fuel. Touted for its “green appeal”, and soaring onto the front pages of the world’s newspapers based upon promises of a cheaper fuel that will also help break America’s dependence on foreign oil, the concept of burning biodiesel for semi trucks is as new as, well , 1897. That was the year that Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913) perfected the Diesel engine that we all know and love so well.
Most of the nation’s semi trucks are fueled by Diesel fuel. And while that petroleum-based product may bear Diesel’s name, it definitely wasn’t the fuel of choice for him. In fact, Rudolph Diesel had some very futuristic ideas for his engine and the fuel that would drive it.
Rudolf Diesel had peanut oil in mind as the fuel that would make his engines roar and ultimately launch the semi truck into its rightful place in history. And he understood the economic impact of biofuel even way back then, as evidenced by his own words:
“The diesel engine can be fed with vegetable oils and would help considerably in the development of agriculture of the countries which use it.”
Using what must have been a crystal ball tuned into 21st Century economic and politics, world, Herr Diesel went on to say:
“The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time.”
How right he was. All of a sudden the semi truck industry is taking one gigantic leap back to 1897 in an effort to finally match fuel reality with the visions of rudolf diesel and his peanut oil engine. Today there are multiple biofuel options that are all vying for acceptance by the semi truck industry.
Poultry fats and soybean oils, sent through a chemical process called transesterification, come out the other side as biodiesel.
Ethanol, a very clean fuel, is being successfully distilled from corn and wood products. Other raw materials are being tested as well.
The Diesel engine is so fuel-forgiving, that it can power semi trucks using any number of alternative r fuels including hydrogen, natural gas, propane or even gasses extracted from landfills.
As the price of fuel continues to soar, how long will it be until your semi truck’s exhaust fumes start smelling like Mom’s fried chicken dinners?