Many sources and uses of biofuels

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11170393564325.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘Fred Kuzel representing the Great Lakes Governors, Energy Fair, Oregon, IL, August 2004.’);

Interest in biofuels, which can be used to power vehicles, warm homes and provide electricity, is growing. Celebrities including President George W. Bush and country music icon Willie Nelson embrace their expanded use. While they will not attend the fourth Illinois Renewable Energy Fair, other proponents of biofuels will inform visitors of progress in the field.

The Illinois Soybean Association, promoters of soy biodiesel, is again a sponsor of the Fair. Azure Biodiesel will demonstrate how to make biodiesel at home. Fred Kuzel will provide an overview of the many biomass sources and uses in the Great Lakes region, including biomass-derived hydrogen for fuel cells. The Veggie Mobile and the Cooking Oil Car will again be on display as will outside wood furnaces.

The concept of biofuels for vehicles has existed for many years. The original diesel engine was designed to run on fuel from plants, not petroleum products. During the 1920s and 1930s, Henry Ford waged an unsuccessful battle with oil companies to run cars on ethanol. Rockford had an ethanol plant fueled by methane from a local landfill during the energy crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Lena has an operating plant; Rochelle plans to open one soon. The corn ethanol industry reported producing 3.3 billion gallons in 2004.

The latest concept in biofuel production is to use cellulose, which means that theoretically any plant material could be converted into fuel. The key to its success is that the energy available for use from the fuel must be more than the amount of energy needed to produce it. Recent figures estimate the net energy gain for corn ethanol is 21 to 34 percent.

The use of biofuels for vehicles is growing. The Rockford Park District is making the transition to home-grown fuels by powering their lawn care equipment with biodiesel and ordering E85 vehicles as replacements for their fleet. Springfield and Peoria have begun to power their buses with biodiesel.

While we wait for more efficient cars, biofuels will help us reduce our dependence on Middle East oil. While we also wait for more E85 service stations, owners of flex-fuel vehicles can fill up at Sandy 66, 4545 Sandy Hollow Rd.

From the May 25-31, 2005, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!