|The Soybean: So Much More Than Tofu
By Susan McKay
|You may be aware of the benefits of the soybean to the human machine, but did you know that it is being used to fuel the engines that drive our nation? That's right, the same soybean that is used to make tofu is used to make clean, abundant, domestic biodiesel fuel.
What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel refers to fuels made from animal and vegetable oils. Key among these is fuel derived from the soybean.
Diesel engines require a clean-burning, stable fuel that performs well under a variety of operating conditions. Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that can be used directly in any existing, unmodified diesel engine. It can be blended in any ratio with petroleum diesel. More than eighty major federal, state, and private fleet vehicles are now using biodiesel blends in their existing diesel engines.
Why is Biodiesel Better than Petroleum?
Private and public business and industry are turning to biodiesel and turning away from petroleum because biodiesel is better for the environment and more economical for agriculture and industry. Biodiesel is better because:
* It burns clean. Low emissions and non-toxicity make it a smart, safe choice for use near marine areas, national parks, and cities. US Departments of Energy and Agriculture (USDE/USDA) studies conclude that biodiesel reduces net CO2 emissions by 78% compared to petroleum diesel. Soybean biodiesel is so safe you can dip your finger in it and taste it! It is comparable to tasting vegetable cooking oil. (Caution: not recommended for consumption due to its laxative properties.)
* Does not require destroying pristine wilderness, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in order to obtain.
* Is produced from soybeans and other domestic crops thus reduces our dependence on foreign oil.
* USDE/USDA studies conclude that increased use of biodiesel will substantially benefit our economy, shifting millions of dollars spent on foreign imports to domestically produced energy. With its ability to be used directly in existing diesel engines, biodiesel can immediately reduce our demand for petroleum.
* Increases domestic agricultural revenue and creates jobs. The USDA reports that through 2010:
* Increased demand in soybean oil by 1.5B lb/yr will expand the annual average soybean oil price by 22 percent.
* Total crop cash receipts of $5.2B cumulatively by 2010, resulting in net farm income increase of $30M per year.
* Price per bushel of soybeans would rise by 17 cents annually.
* Creation of 13,000 jobs in farm, food processing, manufacturing, service sectors.
* University of Missouri estimated the benefits of producing biodiesel in a metropolitan region. Conclusion: 100-million gallons of biodiesel production could generate $8.34 million increase in personal income and more than 6,000 jobs.
* Biodiesel is economical. More than eighty fleet managers now use biodiesel because it is their least-cost-per-compliance- mile option and does not require major engine modifications. That means operators keep their fleets, spare parts inventories, refueling stations and skilled mechanics. The only thing that changes is air quality--it gets better!
* Biodiesel can be used as a pure fuel or blended with petroleum in any percentage. B20 (a blend of 20 percent by volume biodiesel with 80 percent by volume petroleum diesel) has demonstrated significant environmental benefits with a minimum increase in cost for fleet operations and other consumers.
* * *
Biodiesel fuel derived from soybeans is good news for
* Tennessee farmers because of the phenomenal increase in soybean demand, which translates into increased profits.
* Tennessee business and industry because of its reliability and availability as a domestically produced fuel.
* Tennesseans because it will generate revenues and is a clean fuel that won’t pollute air and water the way petroleum does.
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