Why should we be concerned about biodiesel?
Biodiesel is a renewable energy source. What that means is that we can replace the energy we use as we use it. This is an important aspect of energy management because if we are unable to replace the energy source-side, eventually the supply will run out. This is happening right now with fossil fuels. We’re burning through them like they’ll last forever when we know full well that they won’t. Biodiesel directly replaces a non renewable energy source with a renewable one, and it does so without requiring us to extensively m
odify our infrastructure.
If jatropha is so great, why aren’t we growing it everywhere?
The first restriction on that is climate. It is a subtropical plant, which means that many places in the United States are too cold for it to survive the winters. The other issue is that jatropha is a highly toxic plant. Why does that matter you say? Well, because it is toxic, nobody’s bothered growing it on a farm until very recently. So we don’t know under what conditions it thrives best, and what the long term effects of cultivating jatropha will be.
If algae are so amazing at producing oil, why don’t we use them to make biodiesel?
The simple answer is cost. Algae are the best return per acre, or hectare, or square mile for vegetable oil. They are not however the best return per dollar on vegetable oil. Serious breakthroughs in cultivation and harvesting need to be made for algae to become cost effective. Until that happens, more traditional crops will remain the mainstay of the biodiesel industry.