POSTED: 22 AUGUST 2007 - 7:30am HST

Ethanol versus Biodiesel

image above: biodiesel homebrew from sunflowers in

[Editior's note: Again, this reinforces our opinion that Gay & Robinson and KIUC should be planning for biodiesel and not ethanol here on Kauai.]

Biodiesel draws less environmental concern than ethanol
by Matt Sanders on 22 August 2007 in The Southeast Missourian

Compared to another biofuel in the news today, the production of biodiesel has far less impact on the environment.

Where ethanol must be carefully regulated for air emissions and water discharge of chemicals that are hazardous to human health, the common biodiesel facility in Missouri today doesn't. And biodiesel production doesn't require huge amounts of water that lead to concerns about depleted natural resources, like ethanol production does.|

A newly constructed 10-million-gallon-per-year plant without a companion soybean crushing facility "is probably going to be small enough they don't need an air construction permit," said Emily Wilbur, an environmental engineer with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Biodiesel is created when an alcohol (commonly methanol) reacts with a fat or oil to produce glycerine and biodiesel. Glycerin and methanol are hazardous products that must be disposed of, but environmental concerns effectively end there. Some methanol emissions can escape from leaks in the production system but typically nowhere near enough to need regulation, Wilbur said.

The lack of regulation makes biodiesel producers harder to track than ethanol producers, who must acquire air pollution permits before they can begin construction. Missouri state law changed to address the situation this year, requiring biodiesel plants that want to take part in the state's incentive fund to go through the process of applying for an air pollution permit.

Plants between 20 and 30 million gallons in production need a basic operating permit but not a permit before construction can begin, like ethanol plants and biodiesel plants more than 30 million gallons. Plants producing less than 20 million gallons do garner DNR scrutiny, though.

"As a rule, if it can produce more than 10 million gallons, we really start looking hard at it," said Wilbur, who added the department encourages anyone interested in building a plant to submit notification to the Department of Natural Resources.
Possibly because less regulation is needed, different entities within and without the Missouri state government have different lists of state biodiesel operations.

Lists compiled by the DNR, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and soybean check-off group the Missouri Soybean Association have some differences. The DNR says its list only shows plants that applied for an air quality permit, whether they needed one or not. Those that didn't are not on its list. The agriculture department list contains those plants that are currently receiving or have applied for the Missouri Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund.

see also:
Island Breath: $100 a Barrel Oil
Island Breath: Ethanol & Apollo Kauai
Island Breath: Ethanol Deadend
Island Breath: Ethanol Future
Island Breath: GM Madness
Island Breath: Bio-Fuels 12/15/05