Im sure youve heard someone complain about rising gas prices. Well, someday they might not have to worry so much about it. Agricultural Research Service scientists are studying other fuel sources that could eventually replace petroleum fuel.
At ARS' Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, scientists are testing to see if government vehicles can be switched to fuel made from soybeans, corn, animal fats, waste greases--like used frying oil--or other crops.
Its part of an effort to cut back on petroleum products--and to create more uses for U.S. crops. If the project works, more soybeans or corn will be needed to make crop-based fuel. That could be good for U.S. farmers...the more corn and soybeans people need, the more the farmer can sell, the more money the farmer can make.
Another good thing about crop-based fuel is that it burns cleaner and is less sooty--soot is that black smoke that comes from cars and trucks. Crop-based fuels may help engines run cleaner, decreasing vehicle repairs.
The Beltsville center is ARS largest research facility. A total of 140 tractors, trucks, a tour bus, and other vehicles, including snowplows, are gassed up with B20," a mix of 20 percent modified soybean oil and 80 percent regular diesel fuel. [Click front-end loader for the list of ARS farm equipment using biodiesel fuel.]
If you ever want to take a ride in a car or bus powered by soybeans, you can. The ARS National Visitor Center bus, which is used for Beltsville farm tours, is running on biodiesel fuel. It was the first ARS vehicle to fill-up on soybean-based fuel.
ARS scientists are conducting biodiesel fuel research at the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, and the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois. They are trying to find ways to make fuel and other products from vegetable oils, animal fats, greases, and used restaurant oils.
Are there disadvantages to using biofuels?
Biodiesel fuel costs more than regular diesel fuel. But, the price may drop if people use it more.-- By Tara Weaver-Missick, Agricultural Research Service, and Don Comis,ARS Information Staff.
Check back in the coming months for more stories on products made from crops.