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Environmental Effects Of Biodiesel
Although biodiesel fuel is fast emerging as the oil of the future, a number of environmental effects of biodiesel fuel are also surfacing associated with its use. These biodiesel fuel environmental effects potentially include decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, pollution and the rate of biodegradation. Let us study the effects of biodiesel fuel on environment in detail here.
Greenhouse gas emissions
Whether using biodiesel is able to lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to the fossil fuels may depend on many factors. Carbon dioxide is known to be one of the major greenhouse gases. The plant feedstock used in the making biofuels absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere when it grows and once the biomass is converted into biodiesel and burnt as fuel, the energy released is used to power an engine while the carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. When considering environmental effects of biodiesel fuel due to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions, it is important to consider the whole production process. Several factors like production methods, type of feedstock play their role. Assuming today’s production methods, with no land use change, biodiesel from rapeseed and sunflower oil produce 45%-65% lower greenhouse gas emissions than petrodiesel But calculating the carbon intensity of biodiesel fuels is a complex and inexact process. However, there is continuing research for improving the efficiency of the production process of the biodiesel fuels.
There can be grave effects of biodiesel fuel on environment if deforestation and monoculture farming techniques are used to grow biofuel crops. It may damage the ecosystems and biodiversity and increase the emission of climate change gases rather than helping controlling them. To meet the demand for cheap oil from the tropical region, the amount of arable land is being extended in order to increase production at the cost of tropical rainforest. As feedstock oils in Europe and North America are much more expansive than Asia, South America and Africa, imports to these more affluent nations are likely to increase in the future. Tropics forests are being cleared to make room for oil palm plantations. These can lead to serious biodiesel fuel environmental effects as deforestation can be threatening many species of unique plants and animals.
Biodiesel fuel is the only alternative fuel to have effectively completed the Health Effects Testing requirements of the Clean Air Act (1990). The particulate emissions as the consequence of production are lowered by around 50 percent compared with fossil-sourced diesel. Having a higher cetane rating than petrodiesel, some positive effects of biodiesel fuel on environment can be seen as it can improve performance and clean up emissions. Biodiesel also consists of fewer aromatic hydrocarbons.
Another of the environmental effects of biodiesel fuels can be sees in its biodegradation rates, which are 5 times faster than petroleum diesel over a period of 28 days. Biodiesel fuel blends can also accelerate the rate of petroleum diesel degradation through co-metabolism. Toxicity studies have revealed no mortalities and any toxic effects of biodiesel fuel on environment.