by Zach Carson
The history of biofuels has less to do with technology advancements and more to do with political and economical greed. In order to understand the foundation for biofuel technology though, it is necessary to know the history of the diesel engine. In 1893, a German Inventor named Rudolph Diesel published a paper entitled "The theory and Construction of a Rational Heat Engine". In this paper, he described a revolutionary new engine where air would be compressed by a piston to increase pressure and therefore raise temperatures. (Planet Fuels, 2001) Because of the high temperatures, it was found that the engine could run off a variety of vegetable oils such as hemp and peanut oil. In 1911, at the Worlds Fair in Paris, Rudolph ran his engine on peanut oil, and later described that "the diesel engine can be fed with vegetable oils and will help considerably in the development of the agriculture of the countries which use it." Rudolph wanted an alternative to expensive and inefficient steam engine, and his new diesel engine was the answer.
Two years after the Worlds Fair, Diesel was found dead. It was rumored that the German government assassinated him in order to keep his new technology out of the UK submarine fleet. Shortly after this, the Germans introduced diesel engine technology in their U-boats, which contributed to much of their success during wartime. After his death, the petroleum industry capitalized on this new engine, altering it to run on the by-product of petroleum distillation called "Diesel #2". (Boyle, 2003)
Also during this time, Henry Ford, creator the Model T and contributor to the advancement of the assembly line, became convinced that renewable resources were the key to success in the automotive field. Ford built an ethanol plant in the Midwest, and formed a partnership with Standard Oil to sell and distribute it in the states. In the early 1920's, biofuels made up 25 percent of all fuel sales. (Sahlman, 2003). But, with the rapid growth of industry and economic growth of major players in the industrial field, biofuels and renewable resource growth was threatened. There were a few major players who had a lot of political pull and contributed to the downfall of biofuels and renewable resources. William Randolph Hurst produced nearly all the paper in the US, and was threatened by the many uses of the hemp plant. Andrew Mellon, secretary of the Treasurer and financial backer of the DuPont Company, patented a chemical necessary to produce wood pulp in paper. The Rockefellers were developing large empires from the use of petroleum, and biofuels threatened all of their niche their markets. These key players all had vested interests in seeing renewable resource use decreased, the hemp industry destroyed and biomass fuels forgotten. (PlanetFuels, 2003)
By the beginning of World War II, by undercutting biomass fuel prices, the petroleum companies monopolized on fuel causing the biomass industry shut down. The industry's agenda was to make more money, and they had no interest in the effects their greed would have on following generations.
Throughout the next couple decades, the petroleum and automotive industries grew tremendously, both in their economics and political power. Due to our increasing dependency for oil, the US began importing from other countries at low prices. In the early 1970's, the US supply of oil became limited and we had to rely on foreign imports to run our country. In 1973, OPEC, an organization in the Middle East that controls a majority of the world's oil, reduced its output, which caused prices in the US to increase dramatically. With the rising prices of gas, consumers began looking for other methods to support their obsession with travel. So, in 1978, diesel engines began re-gaining popularity and biofuels reentered the consciousness of the country. (NBB, 2005)
Now, almost thirty years later, ideas for alternative fuels are beginning to catch on. Over 200 major fleets in the US now run on biofuels, including US Post Office, US Military, and metropolis transit systems. (NBB, 2005) Hybrid vehicles are being produced by more car companies and sales are increasing throughout the country. Biodiesel is now being produced from many different products: from soybeans and corn in the Midwest, tallow from the slaughter industry, sugar cane in Hawaii and forest wastes in the North West. In Europe, they now have the option for biodiesel at many of their gas stations. Many private groups have caught onto the trend of alternative fuels and have made it their mission to educate people of the uses and technologies involved in using and creating alternative energies.
Despite the resistance of major political and economic powers, biofuel technology and use is beginning to regain its popularity. At this point in history, with increased pollution, global warming, environmental degradation, health problems, and rising prices at the gas pump, the popularity and implementation of biofuels and renewable technology is extremely important for the continuation of our society.
Sayang seribu sayang, bikin Bahan Bakar dari air rupanya belum masuk dalam sejarah alternative fuels.