Is Biodiesel the Answer to Unstable Diesel Fuel Prices?
You were probably shocked when we had the record breaking fuel prices both on gasoline and diesel in July 2008. What was more shocking was that at one point, diesel prices become more expensive than gasoline. What happened next was completely unexpected. After a couple of months, fuel prices began to drop steeply. Speculator say that prices will reach as high as $200 per barrel but now, it is at $40 to $60 per barrel.
Still, the government took action by releasing funding on exploration of alternative forms of energy and gave incentives on those who produce crops that will be converted into fuel. While the government had been active in its campaign to become energy independent since time immemorial, it was just recently when crude prices were up, that the government had seriously taken it as a priority.
But is biodiesel the answer to unstable diesel fuel prices?
Originally, the diesel engine was designed to run on vegetable oil. But since petroleum diesel was cheaper then, vegetable oil was simply not an economical choice. But now, pump prices have driven farmers to convert their lands into biodiesel plantations. On one hand, the production of alternative fuel like biodiesel is good since its use will reduce our demand for petroleum oil. And if the demand is low, the prices will follow as well.
Since biodiesel comes from vegetable oil, it is 100% biodegradable. It does not hurt the environment. Furthermore, a wide spread use of biodiesel in the future will help solve air pollution in big cities because biodiesel help reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emissions. The decrease on petroleum consumption has a good environmental effect.
On the other hand, experts say that while converting farmlands into biodiesel will ease the demand on petroleum products, it will drive the food prices up and may create food shortage. This is because lands that are supposed to be used in producing food are now producing fuel. Many farmers are now focused on fuel production and not on food production. Early signs of food shortage were felt right after farmers began planting more corn. It should be remembered that just recently, corn prices began to rise because of the increasing demand for biodiesel. Prices of other farm-produced fruits and vegetables rose as well.
It is important, therefore, to understand the effects of solving one problem. Does it create another problem in the process? Or will it just be a temporary solution? It is also important not to focus too much on solving a particular problem.
There are other ways to get biodiesel. Recycled restaurant grease, vegetable oil and animal fats can be used to drive your diesel engine vehicle. Other alternative forms of energy that are both efficient and do not harm the environment include solar energy, electric and even water.
No one really knows what the future of diesel fuel prices is, but one thing is for sure: if high prices happened before, it is not impossible that it will happen again. But that doesn’t mean that we focus our attention solely on producing biodiesels. We have to find and develop other forms of energy that will not compromise other important commodities. There is nothing wrong with using biodiesel but make sure that biodiesels will not become the problem that is much harder to solve.