Jatropha powered Le Mans

D1 Oils, previously mentioned as a top supplier of Jatropha curcas tree based biodiesels, is set to enter a car in the 2006 Le Mans 24 hours. The top speed from the modified Volkswagen engine is 200mph, compared to 215mph for petrol engines, but the team are counting on the greater efficiency meaning fewer fuelling stops.

D1 chief executive Philip Wood said apart from winning the coveted Le Mans gold trophy, the team’s other objective is to test the performance, fuel efficiency and emissions produced by different biodiesel blends during the trials.

“This is about demonstrating that low emissions don’t mean low performance,” he said.

“It is going to be of immense value to motorists who want to know that biodiesel will get them the mileage and performance they need while contributing less to global warming.”

via Foursprung and Jalopnik

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D1 Oils and Jatropha biodiesel

Another link I found whilst surfing the Co-op’s intranet.

D1 Oils want to generate biodiesel from the seeds of the jatropha tree, a hardy shrub that can be grown all over the developing world.

Because it requires minimal rainfall, jatropha can be grown successfully on marginal, degraded, or even desert land. The trees also help prevent soil erosion. In addition to yielding oil for refining into biodiesel and glycerol for use by the cosmetics industry, the residual oil cake is excellent organic fertiliser. Research is underway into alternative uses for the residual seedcake, such as animal feed, briquettes for power generation and nutraceuticals.

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Biodiesel's big bad

Biodiesel could be more carbon intensive than the fossil fuels it replaces. Specifically if it’s made from palm oil, the most popular source at present.

Before oil palms, which are small and scrubby, are planted, vast forest trees, containing a much greater store of carbon, must be felled and burnt. Having used up the drier lands, the plantations are moving into the swamp forests, which grow on peat. When they’ve cut the trees, the planters drain the ground. As the peat dries it oxidises, releasing even more carbon dioxide than the trees. In terms of its impact on both the local and global environments, palm biodiesel is more destructive than crude oil from Nigeria.

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Biodiesel as recycling

Treehugger throws down the challenge, not specifically for the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation but for all, to do really joined up thinking when it comes to adopting biofuels and incorporate recycling rather than just growing stuff specifically to produce fuel. This is what I meant to say at the end of my post about RTFO but forgot to.

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Put the oil in the coconut…

Coconut oil has proved to be a particularly good biodiesel, not needing the same level of pre-treatment as other biofuels.

Unlike with many biofuels, coconut oil doens’t need to be transesterized – mixed with sodium hydroxide and alcohol to change its chemical composition – to run in a diesel engine. Filtered and warmed to temperatures about 25C, coconut oil is a better than satisfactory substitute for “mineral diesel” – it burns more slowly, which produces more even pressure on engine pistons, reducing engine wear, and lubricates the engine more effectively.

via BoingBoing

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Bio Bling

Only in LA.

Colette Brooks loves cars. Big cars. Cars with fins, spinners and spoilers; cars that come in nice colors: mustard, seaweed, light teal. The kind of cars that some people might adorn with faux fur and fuzzy dice. But she also loves, as she puts it, “this beautiful blue ball we’re so privileged to live on,” and her car fetish wasn’t exactly squaring with her environmental creds.

So she started buying “pimped out” cars and converting them to run on biodiesel. It’s an interesting concept, I’ll give it that. There are a couple of stretch limos soiling th eroads of Manchester at the moment. If they were fitted out to run on recycled chip fat I’d be less inclined to torch them.

via Jalopnik

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Dubya saves the world

I’ve been pondering a question for a few days. One that is just a little heretical

Is George W Bush going to save the World?

Before the wailing and gnashing of teeth begins let me state that it’s not something I expect him to do on purpose. Call it ecological blowback- the unforeseen consequence of policies that seem designed to do the exact opposite.

The US is, per capita, the world’s biggest consumer of energy. It particularly has a penchant for oil and President Texas Tea is the logical last emperor of the kingdom that petrol built. If the US doesn’t slow down its consumption it’s due a big crash, one that could easily take the rest of us with it.

So it’s for the best that the weak dollar, unrest in the Middle East and whatever other horrible things Dubya’s caused means that petrol is now $3 a gallon. When you factor in the exchange rate that doesn’t sound like much to us but to a population that has never really had to face up to the true expense of its greed it’s quite harsh. Suddenly that SUV is revealed as the wasteful, useless penis extension the rest of us always knew it was.

Every day more and more US citizens are coming to their senses and opting out of the petrol bacchanal. Biofuel- both vegetable oil and ethanol- is being produced in greater amounts. Wired recently reported on what they called the hygrid movement- ordinary citizens protecting their energy supply with home solar or wind.

These aren’t the folks on the fringe any more. The new breed of Green is resolutely middle of the road in so many other ways. As Bush’s policies continue to hit the middle class we can only expect this constituency to grow and grow.

Even the man himself has paid lip service to biodiesel and fuel cells. But these are a politician’s words- from a man other politicians consider untrustworthy- so we shouldn’t expect him to really do anything.

In the long term as well Bush’s tenure could leave a positive mark. As more cities, and then states, adopt their own Kyoto plans the possibility of a green president becomes stronger. As solar and other renewable technologies become cheaper and more widespread, mor epeople will understand why they should vote for a green president. The oil companies and corporate interests that fund the Bush school of politicians will find their incomes and influence waning. The smart ones will adopt the policies they’ve spent so many years campaigning against and the dumb ones will die. Foreign oil will become less and less important, bring about the change in the Middle East that force and bribery have failed to create. And the cleaner, greener, nicer United States won’t be hated by everyone.

Yes, this is an extremely optimistic vision, but it’s not impossible. The only down side will be the revisionists. Much as Reagan is now the man who single handedly brought down Communism- rather than being the guy who was there when it happened- in twenty or thirty years, just as the new Golden Green age is really beginning, we’ll have to put up with being told that Dubya did it all on purpose.

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Look to Brazil for a way to go over to a renewable energy economy.

Earlier this year, Brazilian President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva said his country would become the world’s largest producer of renewable energy. Brazil generates 43.8 percent of its power from renewable energy sources, including hydroelectricity, ethanol and biodiesel, according to Agencia Brasil, a government communications division. By contrast, the United States produced only 6 percent of its power from renewable sources in 2003, according to the Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Outlook 2005.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Brazil’s economy is one-eighth the size of the United States’, yet the country produces more ethanol, mostly from sugar cane.

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Two birds with one coconut

Tablas Island is one of the poorest parts of the Phillipines. It also has the highest harvest of coconuts. So a newly opened biodiesel plant that makes fuel from the coconuts serves two purposes- fuel independence and a cash crop from over production.

“We deliberately chose Romblon because it is an island province and it is coconut-producing. This being an island economy, diesel prices in the region are higher because of cost of transporting the fuel so it makes sense that the province look for an alternative fuel using the raw materials available, which is copra,” [DOST Secretary Estrella] Alabastro said.

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The biodiesel lorry is coming

Cambridge University has mounted a biodiesel refining plant on the back of a lorry so it can go to farms and convert rape oil to fuel at source. The portable refinery is the first in the world that can continuously produce fuel, rather than having to be emptied and cleaned after every batch.

A little bit at the end, however, has me pondering the mathematics of commercial biodiesel-

The government has made this market profitable by giving a tax rebate of 20p on every litre sold compared with commercial diesel. Tesco has begun selling a form of bio-diesel in some garages. It contains 5% bio-diesel and costs 2p a litre more than the 100% petrol version giving Tesco a substantial profit on each litre.

Unless I’ve read that wrong, or it’s badly phrased, Tesco are taking advantage of a rebate and buyers’ goodwill to gouge a profit whilst looking green. Surely they could make it a win-win by selling 5% biodiesel for a couple of pennies less and still make more per litre because of the rebate.

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I can't drive for miles and miles

Volkswagen have halted development of a super efficient vehicle. The two seater had a 300cc diesel engine and super light frame and could manage 60 miles per litre. However it lacked luggage space and was going to be too expensive to produce. It’s sort of a loss and not a loss. VW are still producing the Lupo TDI, which does 20 miles per litre. Combine that with biodiesel and you could be onto a winner.

via Jalopnik

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Turkey Guts

I was very excited by Thermal Conversion (then referred to as Thermal Depolymerisation) when I first heard about it two years ago. After ten years of development the first Thermal Conversion Process plant has gone live. However, it may not be able to fulfill its promise because of technicalities in the renewable energy funding process.

According to the company, CWT is unable to expand its U.S. operations due to limitations on the tax credit definition created by the Jobs Bill of 2004. Wording in the bill promotes development of biodiesel fuel from specific feedstocks, Appel said, but to the exclusion of other renewable energy sources such as oil produced by TCP. The Jobs Bill grants a tax credit of 50 cents to the dollar per gallon of biodiesel specifically derived from virgin soybeans and used cooking oils. CWT’s TCP-derived fuel, which meets the universal definition of biodiesel as a liquid fuel produced from biomass and utilizes animal waste from nearby poultry processing facilities as its feedstock, is excluded from the tax credit.

Also see Cycling on the Pavement: USS Blowjob for a fictional take of TCP/TDP use.

via Sustainablog

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Tesco has partnered with Greenergy to build the UK’s largest biodiesel refinery. The refinery should be running by mid 2006, using rape seed oil from British farms. I reckon there’s still a niche market for local recycling of oil from restaurants by co-ops, but amajor development such as this is great for raising the profile of bio fuels.

via Sustainablog

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