How Can Your Business Contribute to American Energy Security?

How Can Your Business Contribute to American Energy Security?

Having lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, by now most of us are aware that the world is in the middle of an energy crisis caused by that pandemic. Just this year along, gas prices have fluctuated wildly, staying sky high for the better part of the year.

We are becoming painfully more aware that we need to shift our dependence on crude oil to alternative forms of energy. One such option is recycling used cooking oil (UCO) into renewable biodiesel.

Biofuels are fast becoming a viable source of alternative energy for a range of applications. Their use can help stabilize energy security in the U.S. and around the world. Because they are derived from UCO, foodservice establishments are in a key position to help contribute to energy security by regularly scheduling the retrieval and recycling of their used oil with a professional environmental service.

Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) As an Alternative Energy Source

Let’s start with a short science lesson. Biofuels are traditionally made from animal fats and the oils from plant sources such as sugar cane, corn starch, soybeans, and canola. But it is possible to make fuel from straight vegetable oil (SVO). It’s done by fermenting the recycled oil to form bio alcohols such as ethanol, propanol, and butanol.

You may be familiar with ethanol as it is the most commonly used bio alcohol. You have probably seen it at the gas pump as the E85 fuel offered for flexible fuel vehicles.

How Can Your Business Contribute to American Energy Security?

A few important side notes here: SVO fuels differ from traditionally made biodiesel fuels. SVO fuels are good for short-term needs, but they do not hold up well long term. SVO has high viscosity and a high boiling point, which can cause carbon deposits to build up within the engine over time.

Carbon build-up can then contribute to higher engine maintenance costs and shorter engine life. So while biodiesel fuel is made with SVO as one of its components, it uses a different process. Essentially that process lowers the viscosity and boiling point, which improves the performance and longevity of the engine.

Economic Benefits of Biodiesel

Switching to biofuels appears to offer several potential benefits to the economy and the environment:

  • Biofuels come from renewable sources (vegetables) unlike fossil fuels, which are made from crude oil.
  • Biofuels create fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than burning fossil fuels.
  • Biofuels reduce pollutant emissions because they have a more complete combustion than fossil fuels, which create pollutants through partial combustion.
  • Biofuels can be produced domestically, which decreases the U.S. reliance on international fossil fuel. Supply issues created by the pandemic had hard-hitting impacts at the gas pump this year alone.

It is worth noting that in order for the above benefits to be fully realized, the increase in biofuels must coincide with a decrease in fossil fuels. The hard truth is that biofuels will have very little effect if the production and use of fossil fuels continues. Biofuels will truly make a difference when they replace fossil fuels.

Challenges of Biofuel Production

Before we can reap the potential benefits of biodiesel, we have to resolve the challenges of switching to it.

Increased crop production: Biofuels require crops that would otherwise be used for human and animal consumption. More crops would need to be grown in order to accommodate the increased demand, which could potentially lead to higher food prices.
Increased GHG emissions: Changes in land use can still increase GHG emissions, even while biofuels produce less of them. Also biorefineries (which produce biofuels) still operate on fossil fuels, ironically.
Increased pollution: Because of the increased crop production, water pollution could result from nutrients and pesticides. Air pollution could also come from the biorefineries.
Higher crop prices: Since biofuels use crops that are already in demand for human and animal consumption, the higher demand could lead to higher food prices.

How Your Business Can Help Contribute to American Energy Security?

If your business is in the foodservice industry, you can help propel the U.S. toward more biofuel production and less reliance on fossil fuels. You can work with a licensed UCO recycler to pick up your UCO, recycle it at their facility, and then send it for biofuel production. Regular UCO collection from your establishment will also help improve its safety and efficiency.

While there is still a lot of work to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, the economic and environmental benefits of biodiesel show enough promise that your contribution to its development will be worth your time and effort.