Category Archives: biodiesel

Food Riots Lead to Increased Push for Food Security

In response to the violent food riots in Haiti, Yemen, Egypt, and the riots that have taken place over the past year in Mexico, West Bengal, Camaroon, Burkina Faso and Senegal, French Agriculture minister Michel Barnier is urging the EU to take action immediately against biofuels sourced from edible crops. Four of France’s ministers also insist that similar food riots are on the brink in some 30 other countries.

A demonstrator ate grass in front of a U.N. peacekeeping soldier during a protest against the high cost of living in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Political leaders from poor countries contend that biofuels, which Western countries have been encouraging, are driving up food prices and starving poor people, making biofuels a new flash point in global diplomacy.

Meanwhile, today marks the official enforcement of the 2.5% biofuels mandate UK-wide.

[BBC News; NYTimes, Daily Kos; Celsias]

79 Million Trees in One Day


You read it right, 79 million trees in a day – that’s Indonesia’s planting goal for TOMORROW, November 28, 2007. It’s being reported that each of the 71,000 individual villages, plus some 8,000 other administrative areas of the country, have each been ordered to plant 1,000 trees – just before a U.N. climate change conference is scheduled to be held there in December of this year.

Why the sudden mass planting? Indonesia currently suffers from the worst example of deforestation on the planet – with their forests having lost 63% of their total area [about 91 million hectares] since 1966 [stats via] due to logging. Now I know what you’re thinking : ‘Sounds great – deforestation sucks, and trees are great. Man do I love oxygen and shade…’ – but thats not even it! The irony of the move emerges when one looks into what many of the forests are currently being clear-cut for, now that logging is being more and more heavily regulated and has been gaining national attention : biofuel. That’s right, these forests are being destroyed to produce a ‘green’ energy source! My Ninjas, Please!! The crop in particular is palm olive, which is used to produce palm oil – which can be used as a biodiesel fuel. And worse still – it’s not always the farmer’s/landowner’s decision.

[Aruk] is just one of several [villages] where the land rights of local communities and indigenous groups come head to head with new concessions given to palm oil companies.

…35-year-old Alexander [from Aruk - a village on the Indonesian side of the border with Malaysia, in West Kalimantan], lost his 10-acre plot last year.

“I went to my land one morning, and found it had been cleared. All my rubber trees, my plants had been destroyed,” he says, fighting back the tears. “Now I have to work as a builder in Malaysia, so I can feed my three children.”

The company, a subsidiary of the Indonesian Duta Palma group, did offer Alexander compensation for his land.

Full Article via the BBC

[I mean, who cares about local Indonesian farmers? I want my biodiesel so I can catch this 'green' wave before my neighbors. What can I say, I like being the trend-setter.]

Getting a ‘green’ fuel in this way is very similar to the U.S.’s use of corn to produce ethanol – claiming it as sustainable while the process both encourages the use of more and more land for farming – instead of natural habitats – AND raises/alters the value of corn itself, which will inevitably affect food supplies/prices. Creating a ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ world first requires that we act smart, my ninjas -otherwise we’ll end up burning down all the rainforests so we can build wind-farms.


::Interesting random sidenote : WholeFoods‘ 365 brand uses palm oil in some of its products [I bought french fries this past weekend and noticed they were cooked with palm oil after I got home], which is considered by many to be one of the worst kinds of cooking oil. Strange coming from a store so apparently devoted to the health of its customers and the world::

Biodiesel in Your All Terrain Vehicle


Every ninja’s gotta have an ATV. Now, ninjas can be a little bit greener with it. Arctic Cat announced their new 700 Super Duty Diesel ATV at the 2007 Biodiesel Conference, and it’s featured in November’s Biodiesel Magazine:

Because Arctic Cat planned to market the vehicle to the military, it had to ensure that it could perform admirably in harsh conditions using a number of different fuels, including biodiesel. Arctic Cat’s promotion of diesel-powered ATVs, which are approved for B20 use, is good news for biodiesel and should make skeptics more comfortable with wintertime use of the fuel.

As Arctic Cat was testing its new product, it discovered that the renewable fuel burned cleaner than conventional diesel and had added lubricity. Even in cold-start testing procedures, the company actually found an increase in revolutions per minute (rpm). “We expected that this was because of the added lubricity biodiesel provides,” says Craig Kennedy, an engineer for Artic Cat who was involved in the development of the diesel ATV. “It did carry more rpms and performed similarly to No.1 diesel, in regard to cold running.”

Now Kawasaki’s just gotta make a biodiesel burning Ninja:


[Biodiesel Magazine]


BP and Science Foundation Arizona are teaming up with researchers at The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University to develop biofuel feedstock from cyanobacteria.  These tiny little prokaryotes are sometimes referred to as blue-green algae, though they were around long before algae.  The OG of plantlife, if you will, they are thought to be the original species to change our atmosphere from a reducing one to an oxidizing one, creating this oxygen-rich planet that we know and love today.  Cyanobacteria reproduce under the same principles as algae, through photosynthesis, eating up carbon dioxide.  In fact, the synopsis of the technology development at ASU sounds familiar to the algae technologies that are being developed all over the place these days:

The renewable technology holds significant promise, with an estimated high biomass-to-fuel yield. Furthermore, because the bacteria are dependent upon carbon dioxide for growth, a more environmentally friendly and potentially carbon neutral energy source is feasible. The small footprint needed for bacterial biofuel production allows the technology to be placed adjacent to power generating stations and the utilization of flue gas as a carbon source.

Below is a closeup of cyanobacteria dyed with fluorescent markers to show fat content.


[The Biodesign Institute]

Vertigro: Algae & Agriculture

Algae is a personal favorite of ours here at green.mnp, as you can see here, here and here, and some of you may have seen in the October issue of National Geographic. Well, here is another exciting algae harvesting technology we came across by Valcent Products Inc. They call the technology Vertigro, and I will let their CEO Glen Kertz explain the rest (double click his face to watch the video):

Data received from Valcent’s continuously operating test bed facility demonstrates that yields up to 4,000 barrels oil per acre, per year, at an estimated cost of $20 per barrel are achievable on a commercial scale. As a comparison, typically corn will yield up to one-half a barrel of oil per acre per year at considerably higher cost; palm oil, with highest yield of conventional sources, delivers approximately fifteen barrels of oil per acre per year. After a demonstration pilot plant is in operation, several production units that may total 1,000 acres may be built which would have the potential of producing approximately 4,000,000 barrels of oil per year, with significant carbon dioxide green credits and other commercial products. At that rate of production, Vertigro will sequester approximately 2,700,000 tons C02 per year which will be sold as a green credit within the emerging green credit system within the USA and within the Kyoto Protocols.

Interestingly, Valcent has also applied the concept of the Vertigro technology to growing herbs and veggies. They call it the High Desity Vertical Growth System:

[the energy blog]

Chicago School Buses Burning Biodiesel


CHICAGO – The nation’s largest independent school bus company, the Cook Illinois Corporation in Chicago, is switching its entire fleet of school buses to burn bio diesel fuel.

Research shows that biodiesel reduces hydrocarbons in exhaust fumes by more than 30 percent. Studies reveal that children riding school buses are exposed to higher level of emission toxins than other children. Exhaust emissions inhaled on a consistent basis, particularly exhaust from diesel engines, have been linked as a cause of asthma and other respiratory conditions.

The company, Cook Illinois Corporation, last year reduced nearly 1,000 tons of toxic emissions in Chicago by switching to a biodiesel fuel in many of its buses. Chicago School Transit is owned and operated by Cook-Illinois Corporation, Oak Forest, IL. Cook Illinois Corporation was the first bus service company in the Chicago area and one of the first in the nation to use bio diesel fuel.

The new Clean Air Club website, is available for all school children who care about the environment. Kids who log on to the website can play games and win prizes.

[environmental news network]

Brown Going Green


The UPS Worldport air hub in Louisville will convert all of its diesel-powered ground support vehicles to run on a biodiesel fuel blend early next year in a pilot project being funded by a $515,000 federal grant, the company said yesterday.

Most of the 366 vehicles involved are used to move and lift cargo containers, reposition aircraft, carry jet fuel to the planes and power generators, said UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot. A few on-the-road tractors will also switch to the fuel, a mixture of 5 percent biodiesel with 95 percent conventional diesel fuel.


UPS also announced yesterday that it was adding to its “green fleet” with orders for 167 delivery trucks that run on compressed natural gas and 139 trucks that run on propane.


Biofuels Compared in National Geographic

Really dope article and interactive on biofuels in the October 2007 issue: biofuels_ft_hdr.jpg

Corn ethanol (U.S.):

  • $0.68 greater than retail price for energy equivalent of gasoline.
  • 1.3x greater energy output than fossil fuel energy input required for production.
  • 22% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline.

Sugarcane Ethanol (Brazil):

  • $1.03 less than retail price for energy equivalent of gasoline.
  • 8x greater energy output than fossil fuel energy input required for production.
  • 56% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline.

Biodiesel (Germany):

  • $0.58 greater than retail price for energy equivalent of petroleum diesel.
  • 2.5x greater energy output than fossil fuel energy input required for production.
  • 68% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum diesel.

Cellulosic Ethanol (U.S.):

  • Still in R&D stages (no cost comparison).
  • 2 – 36x greater energy output than fossil fuel energy input required for production.
  • 91% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline.

Algae (U.S.):

  • “High hopes hang in bags of algae outside the Redhawk power plant near Phoenix, Arizona. Researchers say the fast-growing green scum, fed by power plant exhaust, could soak up carbon dioxide while cranking out 5,000 gallons of biodiesel an acre each year – at least in theory.”

We at green.MNP encourage you to go read, play, learn & enjoy!


Fungus makes biodiesel efficiently; also kills insects


Chemical engineers over at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have found an interesting way to process biodiesel more efficiently by using enzymes naturally produced by a fungus as a catalyst for the reaction.

Typically, biodiesel is made by mixing methanol with lye and vegetable oil and then heating the brew for several hours. This links the methanol to the oils to produce energetic called esters. Unfortunately, heating the mixture is a huge waste of energy, and a major selling point of alternative fuels is efficiency. An enzyme called lipase can link link oil to methanol without any extra heating, but the pure protein is expensive.

Potumarthi has a simple solution. Why bother purifying the lipase? It would be easier to just find an organism that produces plenty of the enzyme and squish it into pellets. In this case, the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae does the trick.


Metarhizium anisopliae is also considered an entomopathogenic fungus which is a parasitic fungus that kills insects by germinating in the insect’s cuticle, growing into its body cavity and releasing fungal toxins. The fungi in some cases causes the insect to become delirious before it kills it and takes over the insect’s body with spores. Some of you may remember this sick clip below from BBC’s Planet Earth (warning, if you have not seen this, it will blow your mind):


Entomopathogenic fungi have been researched and used as biological insecticides in several regions around the world such as Asia and Africa to help with insect infestations.

I am all about using natural means to deal with pest problems, especially in regions where the pests create massive public heath epidemics. I am also all about developing more efficient ways to process biofuels. But does it make sense to mass produce this entomopathogenic fungi (and it would have to be massively produced to meet the current biodiesel production rates) that could potentially infect innocent insect bystanders? This I am not so sure of. Am I being paranoid? Perhaps I am just traumatized by the Planet Earth video.

[WIRED SCIENCE; neurophilosophy@scienceblogs]