French fries and engines have something in common

Jim Lee

Have you considered the possibility of an 18-wheeler roaring past you on the interstate belching the aroma of French fries and tater tots? It could happen one of these days.
No, I didn’t check out of the Hotel Reality. It isn’t all that far fetched to think of juice from the deep fryer ending up in a diesel fuel tank — and working just as well as the regular stuff.
It has been proven that diesel engines can run just fine on processed vegetable oil and animal fat. This alternate fuel is called biodiesel. Engines can burn biodiesel by itself or mixed with traditional petroleum based fuel.
B40, for example, is 40 percent biodiesel. The ratings run from B0 to B100 and anything in between. Of course, B100 is 100 percent biodiesel.
Any diesel engine can run on biodiesel, in most cases with little or no engine modification. This doesn’t mean we should pour bacon grease or corn oil directly into the fuel tank. The stuff needs refining first.
This process is called transesterification and uses an alcohol, such as ethanol, to remove the glycerin. The glycerin can then be sold as a major ingredient of soap. No waste.
Biodiesel fuel reduces pollutants up to 85 percent compared to petroleum-based diesel fuel. In addition to burning cleaner, it reduces the need for imported oil. We can grow soybeans and other vegetable oil producing plants, and we have no shortage of animal fat (grease).
Let’s face it, sports fans, the oil wells will someday run dry. Then what?
We can eventually make all our vehicles and the engines of many other operations, such as power plant generators, run on B100. Refining biodiesel may be an ideal addition to the ethanol plant already in operation on the edge of town, thereby bringing revenue and jobs to Portales.
We could start by using B100 in all those milk trucks.
Because this is a renewable resource, we never use up biodiesel, and it will become increasingly less expensive as its use expands.
It is virtually non-polluting and just might make engines last longer because of its lubricating quality. Maybe fast food joints can recycle their used grease and veggie oil instead adding to the landfills.
On June 24, two months ago today, Berkeley, Calif., a city about the same size as Midland, Texas, announced its transition to B100 in all its diesel vehicles. They proved it can be done.
So, the next time a big truck makes you crave a large order of fries, maybe somebody has started using something other than that smelly, smoky, stuff we don’t need anymore.
It’s something to think about, isn’t it?

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail:
dr_james_lee@hotmail.com