Biodiesel is a biodegradable ordinary diesel replacement made from renewable resources such as vegetable oils or animal fats like soybean oil and recycled cooking oil. It is non-toxic and non-flammable and it has significantly fewer emissions than petroleum-based diesel. Biodiesel can be used in current diesel engines, but regular gasoline engines need a modification in order to be used with biodiesel.
Biodiesel has several environmental benefits, for example: it reduces emissions of carbon monoxide by approximately 50% and carbon dioxide by more than 78%, it has fewer aromatic hydrocarbons and no sulfur emissions, reduces the matter particle emissions by 65% and ignites more rapidly because of its higher cetane rating.
Biodiesel is made by separating a substance called glycerin from the fat or from vegetables; glycerin is a valuable byproduct usually used in soaps and several other products. It is created through a chemical process known as transesterification.
According to the National Biodiesel Board, 25-million gallons of biodiesel were produced in the United States and it is estimated to grow to 75-million by next year, and 200-million gallons by 2007. Recently, a 267,000-gallon shipment of biodiesel coming from Ecuador arrived at the U.S. on an effort of EarthFirst (a Tampa company) to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.
Pinellas County began using biodiesel more than 4 years ago and currently runs 35 vehicles on it. Also, since 2002 the University of South Florida is using biodiesel to run its transit buses. A 99 percent biodiesel blend is now used to fuel 30 of their 33 buses.