Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jane Pauley

Feed her a line, and she might give you a date.

Ugh, that quip was positively awful. Anyways, due to time constraints, I wasn't able to do my informative presentation for class today. However, thatnks to the magic of the internet, any body depraved enough to spend six minutes of their lives that they'll never get back can read it here. Anyway, here it is:

Communications 101

  1. How many of you have seen smoke bellow out of a diesel truck or bus's smokestack? How many of you think that that is the way diesels work? It really isn't, diesel engines can actually be overall less polluting than even the fancy hybrids that so many car dealerships can't keep stocked nowadays. I myself have been interested in the environmental friendliness of diesels for about a year now. The spike in fuel prices spurred me to look at hybrids, initially, and while hybrids are certainly better than traditional gassers, they still run on a non-renewable fuel, and they are not carbon neutral. Diesel engines, however, can run on a totally renewable fuel, not smoke, and cost dramatically less than hybrids.


A little history is in order. Rudolf Diesel was not the first man to experiment with compression ignition engines, in fact, the idea had been around since 1890, but he was the man that developed it enough and was a big enough advocate for it that his name is linked to compression engines. His prototype engine ran off of peanut oil. Famously, he predicted that "The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time." He said that in 1912.


In fact, thousands of compression engines in north America run off of virgin and waste cooking oil. For less than one thousand dollars, any diesel engine can be converted to run off of a renewable, non polluting, cheap, and engine life extending fuel that most people consider garbage. Www.greasecar.com sells a deluxe conversion kit for $795. Diesel fuel at the pump is around $2.80 a gallon. Gallons upon gallons of waste vegetable oil is at your favorite greasy spoon, for free.

  1. But what exactly is a compression engine, and why can it run on grease? A compression, or diesel engine works by highly compressing an aerosolized fuel so much that it explodes. Because of the nature of the way a diesel or compression engine works, it has to be built much more heavily than a gasser-- ahem, gasoline spark ignition engine.


Due to their design, diesel engines are approximately 15 percent more fuel efficient than a traditional gasoline engine.


Diesel engine hybrids are nothing to sniff at either. President Clinton's “partnership for a new generation of vehicles” initiative spurred Detroit to develop a diesel-electric concept sedan that achieved nearly eighty miles per gallon.


However, that was on petroleum derived No. 2 diesel fuel. Waste or virgin oil is has a higher lubricity than petro diesel, and as such, is often a few percentage points more efficient than petro diesel. If you are keeping track, waste vegetable oil is free, non-polluting, extends the life of the engine, and you use less to go further than on petro diesel.

3. However, waste vegetable oil is not the only eco friendly fuel that you can use in a diesel engine. Bio diesel is basically highly treated vegetable oil that can be run in any diesel engine built after 1995, no questions asked or modifications needed.


However, bio diesel is not all rose buds and peach petals. The reason I said that you can use it in any diesel engine built after 1995 is that manufacturers prior to that date sometimes used natural rubber in their engines, and bio diesel eats natural rubber.


In addition, bio diesel begins to crystallize and cloud at around forty degrees fahrenheit. While well insulated garages, heated fuel filters, and electric fuel line and fuel tank heaters can make this problem, not a problem, we live in Michigan, and mentioning that your fuel turns to soup when the mercury takes a dive is not without a point.


All of that said, bio diesel is a very good thing. Soybean farmers love it, because it offers them a new and ever expanding market for their product, and environmentalists love it because it is a carbon neutral fuel that is totally renewable. The future is looking very good for bio diesel, and diesel engines in general.

  1. Indeed, vegetable oil could one day be the solution to America's energy crisis. Now, this might be a little hard to believe, but people smarter than me have figured out that around 15,00 square miles of farm land would be needed to totally remove our need for foreign oil for transportation.


That sounds, impossible, right? Around 12.5 percent of the Sonora desert is all we need to kick the petroleum habit? What kind of plant can produce 142 billion gallons of fuel a year on less than .3 percent of the land mass of the United States?


Algae. Pond scum. One of the simplest plants around. Some species are fifty percent oil by volume. To put that in perspective, soybeans are around eighteen percent oil by volume. Soybeans also need a great deal of fertilizer, and the land it is grown on needs to be crop rotated to remain healthy. Algae, on the other hand, just needs sun, water, carbon dioxide, and a substantially lower amount of fertilizer. In fact, raw sewage free of heavy metals is a perfect feedstock.

5. Some of you are probably thinking, “but it's still a combustion engine; how can it really be clean?” Well, I have been using the term 'carbon neutral' to describe waste vegetable oil and bio diesel. What does carbon neutral mean? Basically, it means that you get out of the fuel what you have put in.


Plants eat carbon dioxide their entire lives. When they die, their bodies release that carbon into the atmosphere. If your fuel is derived from plants, it is categorically impossible to release more carbon into the air than the amount that was originally ingested by the plants. That's what carbon neutral means.


Conversely, petroleum is also derived from plants. However, those plants died millions of years ago. Whenever any of you, or me, use a gasoline or petroleum diesel vehicle, you are releasing into the atmosphere the carbon of a plant that was last alive when dinosaurs walked the earth. Needless to say, this is not without effect.

6. So, what have we learned? Well, diesel engines are very versatile power plants that can run on several different types of fuels with minimal modifications, That Rudolf Diesel had seriously different plans for his engine than the way it is used today, that certain fuels are better for the environment than others, and that pond scum might just be what we will run our cars off of in the future. Hopefully this presentation has helped to dispel any misconceptions you had about the diesel engine, and made you think a little bit. Thank you for your time.


  1. Unknown Author. “Kelley Blue Book -New Car Pricing, Used Car Values” 08 Nov. 2005. Kelly Blue Book -New Car Pricing, Used Car Values: 13 Nov. 2005. <http://www.kbb.com/>.

  2. Collaborative effort;many authors. “Kelley Blue Book.” 20 Sep. 2005. wikipedia. The Wikimedia Foundation. 12 Nov. 2005 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelley_Blue_Book>.

  3. Collaborative effort;many authors. “Depreciation.” 06 Nov. 2005. wikipedia. The Wikimedia Foundation. 12 Nov. 2005 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depreciation>.

  4. Unknown Author. “Kelley Blue Book -MSN Autos” 14 Nov. 2005. Kelley Blue Book -MSN Autos. 12 Nov. 2005 .

Discordant thought; you just read a college paper, what are you going to do now?

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