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Alternatives to petroleum are catching on around the globe
August 22, 2005 - www.redherring.com

Fueling the Biodiesel Fire 

Alternatives to petroleum are catching on around the globe, and Arab sheiks, Texas truckers, and Chinese restaurateurs are jumping on the biodiesel bandwagon. 

Labland Biotechs green house, where
jatropha and other 'plants of economic
importance are grown and studied'.

Some time next year, a small biotech laboratory in the southern Indian town of Mysore will start supplying millions of Jatropha saplings to the arid countries of the Persian Gulf. 

The inedible oilseed plants will be used to produce biodiesel in countries such as Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most oil-rich nations. 

Halfway across the globe, Texas is also showing a new interest in diesel fuel made from the low-grade dregs from rapeseed, soy, corn, and other vegetable oil presses, called acid oil foot, or the "yellow grease" left over from restaurant cooking or food processing plants. 

One truck stop about an hour south of Dallas, called Carl's Corner, has foregone petroleum diesel altogether in favor of biodiesel. In the United States-where the trucking industry uses more diesel than any other-the federal government, Texas truckers, and even country singer Willie Nelson are singing the praises of biodiesel as an alternative to, or a blend with, petroleum diesel. 

China has also started to embrace biodiesel, including a variety made from oily sewage sludge.

While no one doubts that the oil and gas industry will continue to rack up staggering profits in the foreseeable future, governments around the world are encouraging the introduction of biodiesel into their transport fuel mix to reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions, improve air quality, and lessen dependence on imported fuels. And everyone from Arab sheiks to American rednecks is heeding the call. 

Although heavily tilted toward the oil and gas industries, the new energy bill passed by the U.S. Congress at the end of July will also provide funding for bio-based fuels such as biodiesel. The bill extends a tax incentive for biodiesel from 2006 to 2008, requires the use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel by 2012, and provides $200 million annually until 2015 to boost biofuel research and development. 

Widely fluctuating global crude prices have started to destabilize India's balance of trade, so the Indian federal government is considering a national biodiesel policy mandating the production of 13 million tons of alternative fuel every year, resulting in an estimated savings of $4.6 billion annually in crude oil imports.

China plans to impose a new government law next year that will mandate support for production and application of biofuels and require fuel distribution companies to incorporate biofuels into their existing sales systems. 

The European Union biofuels directive requires a minimum level of biofuels as a proportion of fuels sold in the E.U. of 5.75 percent by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020. 




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